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SPECIAL REPORT

The Government has demanded points be included for sexual health in the next version of the quality framework.

The Chief Medical Officer has also called for the COPD quality indicators to be beefed up ­ and for a new national service framework on COPD.

In its formal response to the health select committee's report on sexual health, the Department of Health said contraception and chlamydia screening would be 'actively considered' in relation to improving sexual health services in general practice.

The response said: 'The QOF teams and Primary Medical Care Contracting recognise that sexual health is a priority for improved delivery in primary care.'

An enhanced service specification could also be developed to cover sexual health services, the department said.

The select committee report had branded the GMS contract a 'wasted opportunity' to tackle sexual health in its report in March, and called for it to become an essential or additional service with quality points.

The department said the negotiating mandate for NHS Employers had not yet been finally agreed, although sexual health was 'certainly being very carefully considered'.

The Healthcare Commission is also considering a 'number of indicators' on sexual health for PCT annual health checks from 2006/7, including a possible indicator on GP prescribing levels for contraceptives.

The GPC has previously criticised moves to include sexual health in the QOF because of workload issues.

But Dr Sally Whittet, a south London GP with a special interest in sexual health, said it would be feasible for practices to do more sexual health work if nurses were

involved.

'There are those who are already doing it and would like financial recognition, and there are the ones who might do more if they got money,' she said.

In a separate move,

CMO Sir Liam Donaldson called for more consistent standards in COPD care at the launch of his annual report this week.

He told Pulse: 'We have two opportunities ­ the next version of the QOF and then if the Government accepts my proposal to do an NSF.'

Dr Hilary Pinnock, a GP in Whitstable, Kent, and a member of the General Practice Airways Group, said new COPD indicators could include measuring breathlessness using the MRC dyspnoea score.

Potential new quality indicators

Sexual health

·Chlamydia screening

·Contraceptive services including prescribing

Source: Department of Health

COPD

·Percentage of patients with COPD with breathlessness assessed using MRC dyspnoea score in last 15 months

·Adherence to NICE guidance on prescribing of bronchodilators and inhaled steroids

Source: General Practice Airways Group

By Nerys Hairon

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