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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 June 2006, 09:17 GMT 10:17 UK
GPs 'to get Michelin-style grade'
The government wants to see some form of accreditation scheme
GPs could be given Michelin-style ratings to show the quality of care they have to offer.

The Royal College of GPs is in talks with ministers over the voluntary scheme, which could start next April.

Surgeries will be inspected by doctors, nurses and patients every three years and given a level from one to three.

They will be judged on basic standards such as opening times, but to get the top grade they will have to prove they provide a range of extra services.

It will give patients reassurance that the GPs they are using meet the necessary requirements
Dr Mayur Lakhani, of the Royal College of GPs

Dr Mayur Lakhani, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said the UK had among the best standards of care in Europe.

"There is not a problem with care. We expect the majority of practices will achieve the grading.

"However, it will give patients reassurance that the GPs they are using meet the necessary requirements."

The Royal College of GPs scheme is based on an accreditation scheme which has been running for the last five years.

The 2,000 practices that are taking part - about a fifth of the total number - do not currently receive grades.

Grading system

But Dr Lakhani said he hoped a deal could be reached with the British Medical Association and government to introduce the grading system.

"We are going to see more providers coming in to general practice, private companies and voluntary organisations, so I think some form of grading will be useful."

At the moment GPs are not officially graded, unlike hospitals. Although under the terms of the new GP contract they have to meet a series of performance indictors and the government is planning to publish the results of patients surveys.

The RCGP said the ratings will be displayed outside the surgery and run alongside the government's plan to publish details of patient surveys.

Doctors that do not meet the necessary level will be given the chance to improve, but could face being black-listed by local health bosses.

It comes after GPs have been awarded huge pay rises over recent years.

Family doctors in the UK are now among the best paid in Europe with the average salary almost hitting 100,000 a year.

The government has already stated it wants to move towards a system of assessment for GPs.

But a Department of Health spokesman said the government was considering a number of proposals, but had not decided yet what form such a scheme will take.

"This grading scheme is being drawn up by the Royal College of GPs - talk of government involvement at this stage is premature."

Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the BMA's GPs committee, said he would be willing to discuss the proposals, but said he doubted they would add anymore to the information already available.

He he warned: "So much time will be taken up with proving quality that there will be insufficient time to provide patients with the services they need."

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