The Out Of Hours Benchmark – An Introduction

The out of hours benchmark is part of the Department of Health’s plan to establish nationwide quality standards for out of hours services in the UK. It provides an important measure for Primary Care Trusts to see how they are performing relative to other PCTs across the country.

For those GPs who are new to out of hours work, the out of hours benchmark may not have previously had much relevance. To this end, we want to explain exactly what it involves and what it means for GPs undertaking out of hours work.

What is the out of hours benchmark?

The out of hours benchmark was initiated by the Department of Health to establish national quality standards for out of hours service providers. It is designed to measure both processes and outcomes, so it can show how effectively services are being delivered and the impact this has for patients.

The system is administered by the Primary Care Foundation, who were appointed in November 2007 with the goal of creating a benchmark that would be respected by both commissioning PCTs and service providers. The benchmark was intended to allow commissioners and providers to make meaningful comparisons between different service providers to see which providers where achieving good results and where improvements needed to be made.

The first benchmark was published in March 2009 and covered 63 different services. The second benchmark was published in November 2009, covering 90 different services and also included a questionnaire assessing patient experience which received nearly 10,000 responses from recent out of hours service users. A third benchmark was carried out in November 2010 and fourth in April 2012, which provides the current standard.

The results of the 2012 benchmark are available on the Primary Care Foundation website and two-thirds of commissioning groups in the England now actively use this data.

What does the out of hours benchmark measure?

The benchmark measures various aspects of out of hours services. The core components measured include:

  • Cost
  • Quality of care
  • Patient outcomes
  • Productivity
  • Patient experience

This data is collected from samples of thousands of cases, web-based questionnaires and specially commissioned patient experience surveys. This approach is intended to produce rigorous results which allow truly “like-for-like” comparisons to be made between different care providers.

What the out of hours benchmark means for locum GPs

Like all doctors, locum GPs want to have confidence that they are working with high-quality service providers to deliver the best possible care and outcomes for patients. The out of hours benchmark is openly visible to anyone, meaning GPs can quickly see whether a service provider they are working for, or considering working for, meets the established standard.

The benchmark also allows locum GPs to see how the organisation they work for is doing in different areas, so they know what needs improvement. This can help them see where they may need to focus more of their efforts and also give them ideas about what improvements they may wish to suggest to help bring up the standards of the organisation they are working for.

Overall, the out of hours benchmark can be just as important a tool for GPs as it is for commissioning groups and care providers.

Find GP out of hours work with an outstanding organisation

East Berkshire Primary Care (EBPC) Out of Hours Service is a non-profit social enterprise supplying NHS services, including urgent out-of-hours medical care, for East Berkshire Clinical Commissioning Groups. We cover Bracknell Forest, Slough, Windsor, Ascot and Maidenhead with the support of an excellent team of locum GPs.

At EBPC we always aim to meet and exceed the out of hours benchmark and aim to work with GPs who share our commitment to achieving the very best standards. We also aim to offer a flexible, supportive working environment for GPs, resulting in the best possible standards for patients and our doctors.

We offer our GPs the chance to work flexibly to suit their career goals and other commitments, helping doctors to achieve a better work-life balance. We have an excellent retention rate of our GPs and in a recent survey, 95% of GP’s felt they were well supported by EBPC Management and the same percentage agreed that they can provide the level of clinical care they would wish to when working with the EBPC.

We are confident that by continuing to recruit excellent GPs and offering them outstanding support, we can maintain the best possible standards and keep performing well with respect to the out of hours benchmark.

To find out more about working as an out-of-hours GP with EBPC, please get in touch or feel free to take a look at our latest job opportunities.