What's in it for the practices?

The RSC conducts disease surveillance through a network of surveillance practices. The network is constantly growing, particularly as many practices show interest in becoming RCGP research ready practices.

The RSC network comprises over 100 practices with an average patient population of over one million people. Data transfers are made weekly, with the potential for more regular extracts, and include information on the number of patients seen categorised by gender, age group and disease or disease group. All data is anonymised and no free text data is collected. The information included in regular extracts provides the basis for routine surveillance of disease incidence for studying seasonal and secular trends of both disease incidence and prevalence and for quantifying the impact of disease on primary healthcare services.

Why do practices get involved in the RSC network?

40% of practices in the RSC network have been part of the network for 15 years or more.

Involvement in public health research

By participating in the RSC network, practices make a recognised contribution to public health and to research within the RCGP. This is the primary reason for practices to be involved in the RSC network.

The RSC core surveillance and vaccine effectiveness work is funded by Public Health England, with other research and surveillance conducted in collaboration with a range of research and surveillance organisations, some working across Europe. Participation in the network affords an opportunity to be part of a long established public health institution.

As a contributory practice to the RCGP RSC network, practices may also have the opportunity to participate in new projects, such as the monitoring of vaccination programmes and emergence of antibiotic resistance.

Revalidation support

Involvement in the RSC network includes training in research methods, notably disease coding and virological swabbing and this training, facilitated through 20 minute e-learning modules, is linked to the GP revalidation e-portfolio.

The RSC and the network of participating sentinel practices undertaking routine surveillance of illness in the community do so within a defined data quality framework. This enables the network to provide material, such as morbidity codes, which characterises other large general practice datasets. Training of practices is vital to this work.

Feedback to practices

Practices will receive feedback on data and data quality from 2015. Feedback will enable practices to compare rates of disease of age, gender and deprivation index presenting at the practice with regional and national rates.

Financial incentives

Involvement in some RSC projects and programmes of work may, wherever we can attract funding, include payments to cover practice time.

Practices involved in the core flu swabbing programme are required to complete three short e-learning modules and receive a small payment for each member of the practice team successfully completing all three modules.

What are the requirements for joining the network?

Any practice willing to participate in the RSC research projects can join the network. There is no requirement for practitioners to be RCGP members or fellows to participate in the network.

There are three levels of membership, with the supply of high quality data and active participation in a surveillance scheme being the highest level. The levels of membership are:

  • RCGP RSC member:

Practices providing data, and undergoing data quality assessment. Practices will receive feedback on data and data quality from 2015.

  • RCGP RSC national surveillance data provider member:

Practices providing data to one or more of our national surveillance schemes. These practices meet or exceed our data quality requirements for the programmes they are participating in. Members of these practices will have completed the online learning about the network and its role, and our information governance module (being introduced in 2015). The online learning can be used for appraisal and revalidation portfolios.

  • Microbiological sample providing practices:

These practices provide microbiological samples as part of our surveillance programmes, as well as high quality data. Most will be providing nasal and throat swabs (swabbing practices) for influenza surveillance. We are also involved in programmes relating to surveillance for gastrointestinal infectious disease (currently just the northwest of England) and chlamydia resistance. There might also be a programme, in the near future, looking at antibiotic resistance in urinary tract infection. Members of these programmes will have completed the online learning relevant to the programmes they participate in (being introduced in 2015).

To express an interest in participating in the network, practices need to send an email to professor Simon de Lusignan: medicaldirectorRSC@rcgp.org.uk

Find out more about the RSC here.


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