Setting up the Benchmark

The Primary Care Foundation developed a completely new approach that is driven by data extracts supplied by out of hours providers for four separate weeks over a six month period.  This is supplemented by web based questionnaires for both  commissioners and providers, ensuring that we derive the information we need from the people best placed to provide it, as well as requiring both parties to validate and ‘sign off’ each others’ submissions.

There were extensive pilots during 2008 allowing us to improve and refine the benchmark, including processes for collecting and validating data, the key performance measures, as well as how we support members to reflect on the findings and focus on the priorities for service improvement.  We shared the developing findings at conferences, SHA-wide networks and through articles (e.g. Health Service Journal, 11 September 2008, pp. 23-24.).  Although the benchmark had to have the support of out of hours providers (and was actively supported by the NHS Alliance, the main representative body within this sector), we were clear that it needed to be owned and paid for by the commissioners, so it was important to promote the initiative with PCTs.  Important decisions about the scope of the benchmark and setting a price were made with a national advisory group involving leaders from PCTs, providers, the Department of Health and the Audit Commission.  We also decided that to further enhance the benchmark a separate, authoritative measure of patient experience was needed and this has been added by working in partnership with CFEP UK Surveys, a leading provider of patient surveys in primary care and out of hours services.

After each round of the benchmark, a report is sent to each commissioner and service provider identifying their performance, but providers currently retain their anonymity, although after a major consultation, this is set to change for the fourth round. We also run a series of half-day workshops with both commissioners and providers to help them understand the different measures and how they can be used to improve performance locally.  These include an analysis of a number of possible explanatory factors allowing PCTs and services to compare themselves with others with similar population density or deprivation. 

About Us

The Primary Care Foundation was established to support the development of best practice in primary and urgent care.  The three Directors bring different skills and perspectives to understanding primary and urgent health care - for more details click below:

David Carson

Rick Stern

Henry Clay



Latest News

New on-line registration for the potentially avoidable appointments audit

The Primary Care Foundation were selected by NHS England to further improve and automate the audit of potentially avoidable appointments. We are now building a new website with Method Analytics that will make it much easier for any practice to register online, will simplify data collection for clinicians, and will allow for instant reporting on results. The reports will be much easier to understand and will signpost other support. And it will remain free to use for all practices in England.

We are now ready to go live with a new ‘test’ site. We are confident it is already easier to use but we are keen to get any feedback from practices before the new website is fully up and running.

If you are a practice in England and you want to register, CLICK HERE  and click on ‘register here to create a practice audit!’ You will be guided through registration and how to set up your clinicians to take part in the audit.  This is a new test site, so if you notice anything that doesn’t look right, or could be made easier, just let us know.  And the same for your clinicians as they enter data – any feedback at the moment – good or bad – would be really helpful … just email us This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


What do we mean by an ‘avoidable appointment?

The latest blog by Rick Stern ‘If only …’ explores the idea of avoidable appointments, what practices have gained from the audit, and what might be possible with further investment in general practice. It is available HERE and will also be published in Health Care Leader.


Are there any simple lessons for practices looking to improve access?

A feature article in Management in Practice by Rick Stern reviews what we have learned from working with over 1,500 practices across the UK – you can read the full article HERE  


Integrated Urgent Care – how to make NHS 111 work

A lead article for Health Care Leader by Henry Clay describes a financial and capacity model developed for NHS England, the potential benefits and pitfalls, and what we have learned from working with a dozen areas to apply the model. The article is available at HERE and a fuller version with a number of explanatory graphs can be downloaded HERE


Integrated Urgent Care – opportunity for support to your locality

We have developed a financial model for the Integrated Urgent Care Team at NHS England that focuses on the NHS 111 and OOH ‘front end’ to an integrated urgent care system (but also looks at the cost of onward referrals to other services). This is proving to be an invaluable tool for both commissioners and providers. It is now available to use and NHS England have also agreed to support some sites to setup and work through the model with PCF’s Henry Clay who developed the model. For further information please contact Henry on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


We are now supporting over 1,500 practices across the UK to manage access and urgent care

Our support for general practices looking to improve access for patients and streamline the management of urgent care continues to expand. Based on a web based tool, developed out of our work commissioned by the Department of Health, we collect practice data for one week and prepare a report for each practice looking at how you compare to others and explore what this means for making practical changes in the way you work. We are regularly improving the format of our reports for practices based on constant feedback. If you would like to see an example report, CLICK HERE.  If you want to know more about how we might work with you please contact Rick Stern on  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  or call on 07709 746771.