Two weeks ago my father complained to me of the difficulty in obtaining a GP appointment at his local practice.
I decided to have a look at what data was available, so I could see how his practice compares with other practices which fall under NHS Grampian and Scotland as a whole.
I hunted for Open Data on the Scottish Government’s website but didn’t spot any. I was directed to an email address which I used to request the data.
While this was going on the issue of Scottish GPS waiting lists, and numbers of patients at practices hit the headlines in Scotland, with GPs telling the government that there are problems recruiting into vacancies – and naturally this piqued my interest further.
I received back from NHS Scotland not only pointers to two useful and relevant data sets, but also the respondent had helpfully merged these for me into a third.
Thanks for your email. In order to answer your request, I have used a combination of published GP contact details (from here: http://www.isdscotland.org/Health-Topics/General-Practice/Workforce-and-Practice-Populations/Workforce/) and published Practice details (from here: http://www.isdscotland.org/Health-Topics/General-Practice/Workforce-and-Practice-Populations/Practices-and-Their-Populations/).
The respondent also provided me with a third spreadsheet which provides GP numbers, practices, localities – all in one sheet.
These data sources both appear to date from July 2016.
Checking the data quality
On going through the data, working out the ratios of patients per GP at each practice, I noted that three practices are not found to be on the population list, but have GP numbers.
Two were located in Forth Valley: 25915 Carseview House, and 25614 Strathcarron Hospice. One was in Ayrshire and Arran: 80946 COMMUNITY WARDS
These have been removed from the analysis as their 8 GPS to 0 patients distort the analysis. That left a data set of 962 practices.
Analyzing the data
My initial analysis was that the number of patients per GP in Scottish practices varies widely – from 21 (in what I suspect is a highly specialist unit), to the maximum of 7182.
The average was 1257 and the median 1187.
I saw a quote earlier this year that Scotland’s GP / patient ratio was the best in the UK at 1053 per GP. This contrasts with the figures I am working with (supplied by NHS Scotland), excluding the three practices above with zero patients, which appear to show a ratio of 1151 patients per GP.
As you may be able to see from the graph above, there are quite a few practices in Scotland which have more that 2000 patients per GP (82 of them – or 8.5%) and there are twelve which have more than 3000 per GP.
So I focused on the the ten practices in Scotland with the highest ratio of patients to GPs (which also equates to the 100th centile rounded to the nearest whole number) :
And there – at position 953 out of Scotland’s 962 practices analyzed, was my dad’s GP’s surgery, the Finlayson Street Practice with 3,259 patients per GP which is over 3 times the quoted national figure. So it appears he was right to raise the issue. Incidentally, the only other surgery in his town has 4 GPS and a ratio of 2172 patients to each GP – still double the quoted national figure.
All of this was done in a lunch hour – and it tells only a part of the story. It excludes other practice health professionals, patient satisfaction rates, call abandonment rates, cancelled appointments, triage methods, mortality rates and other measures, all of which may be available and may tell a more interesting story of what it means to be a patient at a GP surgery.
Also, the data which I used (with permission) is published openly but is not open data, and has no clear license regarding use. If it were it would rank at 2 stars on the five star open data scale.
If this sort of thing this interests you, then why not come to the Health Hack that ODIAberdeen and CodeTheCity will be running in Aberdeen on 19-20 November 2016, supported by local Health partners.
We’ll have a number of pitches for projects, all of which will use data in its many forms in some way.
You can sign up here.