Improving GP appointment data

NHS Digital has been collecting data from general practice appointment systems (TPP SystmOne, EMIS Web, Cegedim (InPS Vision), Microtest Evolution and Informatica) and publishing monthly data 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.

What are we trying to achieve?

Variation in how general practice appointment books are used and how the different IT systems function means that the current GP appointment publication has limitations. This could be, potentially giving an incomplete picture of overall activity and workload in general practice.

NHS England and NHS Improvement, NHSX and NHS Digital have worked with GP appointment book system suppliers and volunteer general practices to develop and test a range of improvements. This is to ensure that published general practice appointment data fairly represents the appointment activity carried out across practices and general practice providers in England.

A range of improvements are now available to enhance the quality of General Practice Appointment Data (GPAD):

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

PCNs will be incentivised through the Investment and Impact Fund (IIF) for their practices completing both the mapping of local appointment slots to the new standard appointment categories and improvements in overall appointment data quality and therefore confirming they are submitting high quality appointment data.

Benefits and use of this information

Practice level: 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: GPAD provides commissioners with an understanding of how capacity is changing in each locality and identifies different ways of working. The COVID-19 pandemic has also demonstrated the importance of understanding appointment activity in general practice, informing our national response to the outbreak.

During 2020/21 general practices and general practice providers were asked to:

Accept the renewed Data Provision Notice

  • A new Data Provision Notice was issued in February 2020, seeking 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 Appointment Category associated with the appointment slot.
  • The majority of practices are already signed up but 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 participate in the QOF and Enhanced Services).
  • Find out more on the NHS Digital website.

What are general practices and general practice providers being asked to do now?

Record all appointments in your appointment book, in line with the agreed definition of an appointment.
  • 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 guidance issued jointly with the BMA introduces an agreed definition of an appointment and asks general practice to apply this.
  • The definition should be applied now as it is a contractual requirement for all general practices and general practice providers to record all appointments in line with it.

Improve accuracy of appointment recording by referring to guidance

  • The guidance aims to improve known data quality issues within the GPAD extract across general practice in England, such as accuracy of recording appointment mode.
Guidance on how to get the best out of your existing appointment systems can be accessed on the NHS Digital website.

Apply the new 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 condensed set of ‘appointment categories’ have been developed with practices.
  • Once your system supplier switches on these new appointment categories they will be displayed 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.
  • Appointment categories are now available across all general practice clinical systems.
  • These appointment categories will be reviewed annually and if appropriate changes will be made to reflect service user needs.

Guidance on the appointment categories includes the latest set of appointment categories.

What support can practices expect to see in the future?

Support

  • Practice support locally managed through regions by emailing the national team who can help to facilitate this: england.gpad@nhs.net
  • Virtual drop-in clinics for practice staff and wider champion users.
  • Access to local user groups to raise concerns/recommendations.

Regular engagement and communication

As work progresses on GPAD, we will continue to engage with practices, seek feedback and provide updated information and guidance on any changes.

Find out more

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