Health inequalities are seemingly still rife throughout primary care, after a large-scale study found that people living in deprived areas are receiving worse care than those living in more affluent parts of the country.
Fears over the NHS postcode lottery regarding the quality of care have resurfaced on fresh research showing that GP practices performing poorly on both clinical outcome measures and patient experience are more likely to be found in London and in more deprived areas.
The analysis is based on 2010/11 data gathered from more than 8,000 general practices throughout England, which aimed to examine the link between patients’ perceptions about the non-clinical aspects of care with performance on measures of clinical quality.
The survey showed that, overall, patient satisfaction with GPs is high, with 85% reporting satisfaction with the care received at their practice.
But taking a closer look, there was considerable variation across the different domains of experience.
For example 50% of patients reported being happy with the information they receive from their GP, while the figures were 72% for access and 97% for cleanliness.
On the whole, those practices faring well on the patient experience side also fared well on the clinical side, and the reverse was also true - practices whose patients were more negative about access and services generally performed less well on clinical quality indicators.
The findings also suggest that the number of GPs in each practice has an affect, with those practices housing a greater number of doctors generally performing better than those who had less.
The government is trying to better address the situation. From April next year, there will be a legal requirement on the NHS Commissioning Board and clinical commissioning groups to reduce health inequalities, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health (which could not be reached in time for comment) told the Guardian.
Revalidation costs £97m a year
Meanwhile, an analysis by the Department of Health has revealed that the cost of revalidating GPs is likely to cost £97 million a year for the next decade.
But it said while there is expected to be a net cost to the system in the first four years of implementation, from 2017 onwards, a net benefit of around £50-£100 million per year is expected to result, "as revalidation beds in and the full benefits are realised".
Doctors in the UK are set to become the first in the world to be regularly assessed as a safeguard to patients.
The revalidation process is designed to ensure that the training and expertise of British doctors is up to date and that they are fit to practice.
This, the government claims, will fuel crucial improvement in the earlier detection of serious diseases such as cancer and diabetes, improving related survival rates, while securing the better care of patients with conditions such as dementia.