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GPs' safety fear over new staff

The GPC has referred for formal arbitration an escalating row over whether telephone reviews can count for QOF points, writes Daniel Cressey.

Some PCTs have sparked anger after refusing to pay GPs who used telephone reviews to meet QOF asthma targets.

Trusts said reviews should include peak flow and inhaler technique checks ­ impossible to conduct over the phone.

Dr Laurence Buckman, GPC deputy chair, said the row would be resolved by the Implementation Co-ordination Group, which includes representatives of trusts and GPC chair Dr Hamish Meldrum.

He said: 'It's gone to the ICG. We've made our position completely clear ­ we think it's OK.'

But Debra Elliott, director of primary care at West Wiltshire and Kennet and North Wiltshire PCTs, said they would not pay out for telephone reviews as they did 'not believe this constitutes achievement of QOF indicator 6'.

She said her stance was supported by 'neighbouring PCTs in the Avon, Gloucester and Wiltshire patch'.

Representatives of Reading and Mid Sussex PCTs have previously told Pulse they did not believe telephone reviews fulfilled QOF criteria.

GP asthma experts insisted phone reviews were the only way to catch many patients as research strongly backed their use.

A new study, published in December's British Journal of General Practice and previously reported by Pulse, found telephone triage increased review rates by 35 per cent with no loss of patient care.

Study leader Dr Kevin Gruffydd-Jones, chair of the General Practice Airways Group's education committee and a GP in Box, Wiltshire, said: 'It is acceptable ­ no question. It's positively detrimental not to allow it.'

Dr Hilary Pinnock, member of the group's steering committee and a GP in Whitstable, Kent, warned if telephone reviews were not counted GPs would simply exception report non-attenders ­ with damaging effects for patient care.

Canterbury and Coastal PCT said telephone reviews would be counted under QOF. East Devon PCT was likely to allow them for patients who had 'no significant problems'.

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