GP practices could be judged on the death rates of patients in their area under new plans being considered by the health regulator.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) will examine the risk profiles of surgeries to highlight any potential issues that may need investigating.
For example, practices with higher than average death rates from heart disease could be questioned on how they help patients control the risk and whether people are called back for follow-up appointments.
Other data that may be used by the CQC includes patient survey scores and comments about practices via the NHS Choices website.
All GP practices will need to register with the CQC by April 1 2012 under regulations brought in following the Shipman Inquiry.
The inquiry criticised the lack of monitoring of some aspects of GP care, including the death rates in a given area.
Dr Alex Mears, measurement policy manager at the CQC, told Pulse: “Our development work is focused on exploring potential data sources for inclusion in a quality risk profile. Among those under consideration are the Quality and Outcomes Framework, hospital episode statistics, the GP patient survey and the primary care mortality database.
“We’re also able to present qualitative information alongside quantitative datasets, and are looking at sources such as patients’ comments from NHS Choices.”
Dr Mears said profiles would only be “a prompt to help our inspectors make decisions about regulatory involvement”. Practices could be flagged as green for low risk and red for high, as with primary care trusts and NHS trusts, he added.
Dr Robert Morley, a GP in Birmingham and deputy chair of the British Medical Association’s GP contracts and regulation subcommittee, said: “We can understand the intention of looking at things like this, given the tragedies of Shipman. The problem is, there seems to have been a knee-jerk reaction to so many things post-Shipman. If it’s analysed properly, then there could be some benefit. But I would fear that would not be the case and the wrong conclusion would be drawn.”