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QOF figures for England released last week showed fantastic performances by GPs but also the difficulties faced by practices in deprived areas ­ Daile Pepper reports

GPs exceeded all predictions by scoring an average of 959 points in the quality framework last year.

Figures for England released last week showed 222 practices achieved all 1,050 points. Even in the lowest-scoring PCTs, practices totalled well above 700 points, the estimated average at the start of the year.

GPs' sensational achievement means an average three-partner practice will have earned £75,300 from the QOF.

PCTs will also have to find an extra £200 million to pay GPs after the Government only allocated enough to fund 75 per cent achievement.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, GPC chair, said the results were 'proof that investment in general practice paid off'. He added: 'GPs can quickly adapt to new and better ways of working. English general practice is offering a high standard of care in these particular areas.'

He said the QOF was not the only determinant of GPs' abilities and warned against drawing unfounded conclusions from the data.

Dr Gill Morgan, NHS Confederation chief executive, said many PCTs will face short-term financial problems to pay GPs but this would be worth it in the longer-term.

She said: 'The improvements in health will reduce NHS costs as health problems are identified earlier and managed effectively.'

Health minister Lord Warner also congratulated GPs on their achievement, though the Department of Health chose to concentrate more on the fact the QOF meant the UK now had the world's most comprehensive set of disease prevalence data.

Despite the high overall achievement by practices, the QOF figures did not please all GPs.

Leafy suburbs and rural

areas dominated the list of highest scorers, with GPs in urban and inner-city areas finding it hardest to hit the QOF targets.

Dr Ron Singer, Medical Practitioners Union president and a GP in north London, said inner-city GPs were doubly penalised because of the impact of the square root factor, used to even out quality pay between practices with high and low disease prevalence.

The factor was 'deliberate discrimination in order to stabilise high-earning practices', he said.

Dr Tim Scott, a GP in Tibshelf, Derbyshire, said the square-root formula was 'totally iniquitous'.

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