People in England can now compare the GP surgeries in their area thanks to an interactive map published for the first time by the health service watchdog.
Practices are given scores from one to six based on the levels of “concern” they present to officials – with band one representing those in most urgent need of inspections.
Around one in six surgeries fell into the two worst rankings – meaning exactly 1,200 may be falling below care standards.
At the other end of the spectrum almost 3,800 surgeries were ranked in band six, meaning they were of “lowest concern” to the watchdog.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) was at pains to make clear that their reports released online were not simply a judgment on practices’ quality – something that could only be judged once they had been inspected.
But speaking to The Daily Telegraph, the CQC’s chief inspector of general practice Professor Steve Field said they were “sadly finding some very poor practices”.
“These typically are chaotic, have very poor leadership and a lack of learning culture. They also have a poor skill mix, some don't have any nurses. “Patients could be at risk by simple things such as prescribing out-of-date medicines and vaccines.”
The CQC said it aims to inspect all GP surgeries by March 2016, starting with those rated of highest concern from next year.
To view the bandings, including a map of surgeries, visit the CQC website.
Meanwhile, performance data from around 5,000 surgeons were also released by NHS England today.
The league tables showing how many patients have died in each physician’s care over the past year have been rolled out to cover 13 areas since they were first introduced last year.
In numbers: the NHS crisis
NHS England said the mortality rates for “almost all surgeons” are “within the expected range”, and Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, hailed a new “safety culture based on openness and transparency”.
But critics said the move to publish performance data for surgeons was “crude and misleading”.
John MacFie, president of the Federation of Surgical Speciality Associations, which represents surgeons, said: “There is now good anecdotal evidence that shows publishing this data has encouraged risk-averse behaviour, which is not in the interest of patients.
“I believe that the data should only be published after any concerns in a surgeon's performance have been investigated.
“In reality very few deaths can be attributed to surgical error alone, and this data only attracts attention away from institutional failings. Put simply, hospitals should not be allowing surgeons to practice unless they can demonstrate their practice is safe.”
The “consultant outcome data” page on MyNHS went live from 6am this morning, and Patients Association chief executive Katherine Murphy said it would “go a long way to giving patients and the public the information that they desperately need in order to make informed, empowered decisions about where they go for care and treatment”.
Responding to criticism of the service, NHS England chief Sir Bruce Keogh told BBC Breakfast: “The publication of these results is simply the end result of a long process. Surgeons individually agonise over how they can do better, they agonise when things go wrong.
“They share their performances with colleagues at case conferences, particularly where they've had difficulties, they have annual appraisals at their hospital where they discuss how they're performing, so we have a number of mechanisms in place that precede publication.
“I think you've got to start somewhere so at this stage the figures are in many cases relatively crude but it's better to start somewhere and improve them.”