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An Overview of Out of Hours Benchmark (2008-2012)

Using data to Improve Care: A national benchmark for Out of Hours services


What this section covers

This section offers access to comparative data about GP out of hours services across England between 2008 and 2012. It is an openly available resource for anyone interested in looking at variation across health care and the potential for driving improvement through consistent and transparent benchmarking across services. It includes an interactive tool to look in detail at the results from the 4th benchmark in 2012; detailed results from all four rounds of benchmarking; how the benchmark was initially commissioned and set up; the metrics developed to ensure a broad basket of measures and transparency in how they were defined; and finally three case studies describing how comparing performance helped improve patient care.

An overview of the Out of Hours Benchmark

The Department of Health were keen to drive reliable comparisons of performance across out of hours services in England, building on the established national quality requirements, but breaking new ground in measuring outcomes as well as process. Following a competitive tender, the Primary Care Foundation were appointed in November 2007 to develop a benchmark of out of hours services that would be seen as credible by commissioners and providers alike and would serve as a basis for service improvement. The overall aim was to make accurate comparisons across different services so that providers and commissioners were in a position to recognise and take action to improve care for their patients.

The first round of the benchmark was completed in March 2009 by the Primary Care Foundation and involved 63 different services measured on a wide range of performance indicators, ranging from cost, to quality, outcomes, productivity and patient experience. The second benchmark was completed in November 2009, involving 90 services and including a patient experience questionnaire returned by almost 10,000 recent service users across England, carried out by CFEP UK Surveys. The third benchmark, launched in November 2010, looked for the first time at peak demand for services during Christmas 2009 and New Year 2010, rather than ‘normal’ demand, focusing on a narrower series of performance measures. The fourth benchmark again looked at performance across the full range of indicators, including patient experience and was completed in April 2012. For the first time, headline results were openly available on this website.

The benchmark was rigorous, being based on a sample data extract typically of several thousand cases, supplemented by web based questionnaires, as well as a specially commissioned patient experience survey. All of this ensures that we are genuinely comparing ‘like with like’.

The benchmark was up and running for four years, and, at its peak, two thirds of commissioners across England made separate decisions to buy into this service. Commissioners understood that this type of information is the currency for effective commissioning of urgent care. There was clear evidence that the benchmark served as a powerful catalyst for action and there were good examples of how it led to changes in the way services were delivered and significant improvements in patient care.

About Us

The Primary Care Foundation supports the development of best practice in primary and urgent care. We apply our work shaping national policy to support local change. We use information to create understanding, driving improvements in care, reducing unnecessary variation across organisations and between clinicians and developing practical tools for front-line staff in general practice and urgent care.