Improving the quality of health services is at the top of the policy agenda. However, most of the focus has been on hospital services. Other than the Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF) there remains little information to compare the overall quality of patient care in general practice, despite significant variations in standards of care for patients.
To fill this gap, we commissioned an Inquiry into the quality of general practice in England. Launched in April 2009, the Inquiry sought to collect and examine evidence on the quality of care and services provided by GPs and other health professionals working in general practice. We looked at a range of care dimensions that were selected by an independent panel.
What did we hope to achieve?
The Inquiry aimed to help general practice and others better judge the quality of the care and services provided. Reporting in Spring 2011, it examined how data and information can best support quality improvement and drive up standards.
The Inquiry commissioned ten research projects on the following dimensions of care:
- the management of acute illness
- the quality of diagnosis and referral
- prescribing and prescriptions management
- the management of people with long-term conditions, including mental health problems
- health promotion and ill-health prevention
- access to care
- continuity of care – or how well general practice is integrated into the rest of the health care system
- patient engagement and involvement
- end-of-life care
- tackling inequalities in general practice.
In addition, four discussion papers have been commissioned on the following dimensions:
- the quality of the therapeutic relationship
- improving the quality of commissioning services from general practices
- the quality of maternity care in general practice
- clinical leadership.
The Inquiry also sought further evidence on out-of-hours care and the quality of care to children.
Together, these studies built a picture of what high-quality care looks like, the role of general practice in delivering it and how high-quality care can be measured. It also provided a commentary on the challenges faced by general practice in meeting the quality agenda.
Research and findings
The Inquiry was committed to testing the findings from its commissioned work with front-line professionals, managers and patients to ensure that its recommendations are both helpful and effective.
A series of engagement events with diverse audiences were held in February and March 2010 to share key messages emerging from the research. We also conducted a survey to capture opinions on whether general practice is providing high-quality patient care, and reactions to current levels of quality improvement.
The final report is now available: Improving the quality of general practice in England