A fine mess the Care Quality Commission has made of its recent attempts at transparency, openness and clarity in England’s primary healthcare system.

It took the BBC to point out that criteria used to calculate the health watchdog’s shiny new ‘intelligent GP monitoring’ was flawed, misleading and – according to some GPs – downright irresponsible.

For those who haven’t spent joyous portions of their day poring over statistics on the CQC’s website, the system is supposed to give an at-a-glance overview of every GP surgery in England.

By way of a snazzy Google Map, it rates each practice one to six in terms of priority for inspection, based on a calculation of various data my overworked brain hasn’t a hope of fully comprehending.

So complicated in fact, that they got it wrong.

Coupled with public confusion over what the ratings actually mean, the CQC was forced back to the drawing board after using data from surveys that skewed the figures.

An embarrassing row back from the commission’s top bods led to an apology for around 60 practices across the country unnecessarily labelled as ‘at risk’.

But a handful of our GPs here in South Bucks are still reeling from the news that they will not be adjusted upwards, and remain bottom of the pile – though there is confusion over what the pile is actually supposed to mean.

To put it in a local context, Marlow Medical Group’s surgery in Marlow has been flagged up as ‘one’ – the maximum level of concern.

So too is the Cressex Health Centre in Booker, and Wye Valley Surgery on Desborough Avenue.

Marlow GP Christopher North has spoken out against what he sees as an “unverified and unbalanced” report resulting in a “slur put against a hard-working practice”.

And you can’t help but feel some sympathy for GPs, who have continuously seen the goalposts shift in recent years.

If the CQC were at pains to point out that this is “not a judgement” on GPs, it should have been more careful about tossing around terms such as “risk” and “elevated risk” in a tool intended for public consumption.

And many of these care ‘risks’ stem from a survey with a reported response rate of just 40 per cent.

With confusion reigning supreme, an open letter from the CQC’s senior GP advisor Dr Nigel Sparrow last week sought to clarify the situation by explaining just how complicated the whole thing is.

Fine for someone with half the alphabet after his name.

But surely the whole premise of trying to boil down a nausea-inducing data set to an oversimplified rating system is bound to lead people off track?

It begs the question – why did the CQC bother? The alarmist interpretation from the public was inevitable, and the figures fed into the number cruncher should at the very least have been thoroughly checked first.

As Dr North put it, the move goes way beyond the watchdog’s aim of transparency, and could end up doing more harm than good.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for openness in our NHS, but as the CQC should know full well, there’s lies, damn lies and statistics.