Improving GP appointment data

NHS Digital has been collecting data from general practice appointment systems (TPP SystmOne, EMIS Web, InPS Vision, Microtest Evolution and Informatica) and publishing it, collated by CCG area, since 2018. This published data provides a picture of general practice appointments and includes details such as the number of appointments, the healthcare professional carrying them out and where possible the mode of delivery e.g. face to face, telephone etc.

What is the programme aiming to achieve?

During 2020-21 a range of improvements  is planned to improve the quality of general practice  appointment data (GPAD). This aims to ensure all appointments are being recorded in general practice appointment books, in order to fully capture the scale of work and workload in general practice. Variation in how appointment books are used and in how the different IT systems function, means that the current publication has a number of limitations and inaccuracies, potentially giving an inaccurate picture of overall activity and workload in general practice.

NHS England and NHS Improvement, NHS X and NHS Digital are working with GP appointment book system suppliers and want to also work with general practice to improve data quality, so that it fairly represents the appointment activity carried out across practices and general practice providers in England.

Our primary focus while doing this will be on minimising the burden of this process on practices and maximising the benefit for them and for Primary Care Networks.

Benefits and use of this information

Practice level: Different models of working are being embedded in many general practices, with multidisciplinary teams becoming the norm. Accurate appointment data demonstrates the activity and need for different services and supports understanding of practice activity, workforce planning and identification of pressure points.

Local level: Accurate data is key for local decision making and workforce planning across the local health system.

Nationally: GP Appointment Data provides commissioners with an understanding of how capacity is changing in each locality and identifies different ways of working.

The COVID-19 emergency has also demonstrated the importance of understanding appointment activity in general practice. It informs our national response to the outbreak and supports commissioners and practices to understand and respond to how their capacity is changing locally, as well as highlighting different ways of working.

How are we working with general practices and general practice providers to improve the GP dataset?

Introducing a renewed Data Provision Notice to improve the current data collection by including three new data fields:

  • More granular information on the role of the health care professional associated with the appointment.
  • Whether the appointment was offered online for patients to book.
  • The National Appointment Category associated with the appointment slot (once available).
  • Issued in February 2020, over 97% of practices are already signed up.
  • If you have not already done so, please accept the new Data Provision Notice (DPN) on CQRS (Calculating Quality and Reporting System). (CQRS is the same system used to participated in the QOF and Enhanced Services).
  • More information is available on the NHS Digital website.

Development of new national appointment categories:

  • Currently there are over 400,000 appointment slot types being used across the country. To enable local and national understanding of the type of appointments being carried out, a set of “national appointment categories” are being developed and tested with practices.
  • Once these national appointment categories have been fully tested and agreed, they will be displayed in your systems as a dropdown list. Practices will be required to map their existing slot types to the new categories and to map when creating or editing an appointment slot type.
  • The new national appointment categories will be made available automatically once the categorisation functionality is switched on by your system supplier later in 2020. You will be notified when this happens.

Introduction of an agreed definition of an appointment and guidance for practices on applying it

  • More accurate general practice appointment data – guidance.
  • To ensure all appointments are being recorded in general practice appointment books, and to fully capture the scale of work and workload in general practice, this document introduces an agreed definition of an appointment and asks general practice to apply this.
  • Further technical system specific advice and guidance will be issued during the year to support practices with configuring appointment books and applying a set of new, standardised national categories for appointment types.

What can practices expect to see in the future?

Guidance

We will be publishing further guidance documents to support practices and general practice providers to improve appointment data accuracy.

Guidance will also be produced where there are updates to IT system software, for example the introduction of national appointment categories.

Regular engagement and communication

As work progresses on GP Appointment Data, we will continue to engage, seek your feedback and provide updated information and guidance on the changes. This will include developments such as the new appointment categories and the development of an online portal for practices to view practice level data.

How to find out more

This page will regularly be updated with developments.

Please get in touch with any comments, suggestions, offers of help or feedback using the following email address: england.gpad@nhs.net