GP ratings: 'Not perfect but it's still a valuable tool'

THOSE who take care of our health, educate our kids and tackle crime tend to get nervous when their work is compared with that of colleagues elsewhere.

They point to external factors over which they have little control – especially the effects of deprivation on the life prospects of local people.

That is why teachers have always urged caution on using exam results to rank schools; it is why police prefer not to compare crime rates with those of other forces; and it is why surgeons resisted the so-called "death league tables" of operation outcome rates.

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They all have a point, and in each case there is a need to look beyond easy comparisons and take into account all aspects of their work.

But there has to be an underlying principle that it is right for all parents and patients – in the jargon, all "customers" – to have access to as much information as possible.

That is why the GP listings we report today – while imperfect and incomplete – are a valuable tool. They already offer some insight into what some surgeries do best, and what some don't do so well. As we reveal, the biggest gripe appears to be when patients cannot get an appointment quickly enough.

That sort of information doesn't just help people shopping around for the right GP. It should encourage all surgeries to improve their game, and that has to be good for everyone.

Inexcusable charge

COMMUNITIES usually react angrily when the council's axe swings their way.

Under current plans grants have been cut to scores of groups, while six community centres face closure. Local opposition is understandable.

But it has to be acknowledged that – in line with all the public sector – the council has no choice other than to cut services as funds dry up.

That means some areas have to lose out, and in the case of the community centres the council insists all have other facilities nearby.

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But what does appear inexcusable are the charges the council has been making for pretty basic services.

Volunteers at Colinton Mains Community Centre say they were charged more than 5,000 for roof leaks, blocked drains and graffiti removal – none of which they needed. Replacing two lightbulbs cost 75 while a new lock cost 120.

If centres face such charges no wonder they struggle to survive – though it is a wonder the council doesn't have a much healthier balance book.