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GP leaders in new bid to suspend QOF in swine flu hotspots

By Ian Quinn

BMA leaders were today locked in urgent talks with the Government in a bid to get the QOF suspended in areas where GPs are being swamped with extra work because of the swine flu crisis.

As previously revealed by Pulse, the Department of Health has so far refused to suspend the framework, despite claims that GPs in areas such as London, Birmingham and Glasgow cannot cope with their normal workload while fighting the virus.

And the Department had appeared to rule out suspending the QOF in outbreak hotspots, telling Pulse: 'If implemented, the pandemic flu statement of financial entitlements would apply to all practices in England, rather than specific areas.'

But the GPC today said it was calling on ministers to think again, asking that PCTs hardest hit to be allowed to act independently to prevent general practice falling into chaos in many areas as the disease spreads.

In a letter to the profession, GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman said: ‘The original agreement envisaged that the income protection would be triggered on a country-wide basis.'

'However, the pandemic has not developed as evenly through the country as expected. In our discussions with the Health Departments and NHSE, we are exploring urgently the possibility of suspending elements of the contract on a PCO by PCO basis, controlled by regional health authorities and supervised nationally.'

Dr Buckman praised the work of GPs in the hardest hit areas, adding: ‘We are very aware that this outbreak is creating additional work for GPs and their staff and considerable additional work in the flu hot spots, particularly Birmingham, London and Glasgow. GPs' response to this challenge has been admirable, demonstrating all that is good about general practice, as GPs strive to do their utmost for their patients.'

'On behalf of the General Practitioners Committee, I would like to offer our thanks to GPs and practice staff. We are extremely proud of your professionalism and efforts to deal with the situation as effectively as possible.'

He added: ‘It is likely that the outbreak will spread widely in the coming months and much of the work of diagnosing and treating those infected with the virus will fall to GPs. We are confident that you will continue to rise to this challenge and that patients can continue to look to their GP practice for the best possible care in extraordinarily difficult circumstances.'

GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman: calling on Government to act GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman

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