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Tories plan to 'unpick' QOF

By Lilian Anekwe

The Conservatives have vowed to ‘unpick' the QOF and replace it with a new version heavily focused on clinical outcomes and public health, if they win the General Election.

Shadow health minister Mark Simmonds told a fringe event at the party's conference last week it would ‘shift the focus to outcomes' as part of a restructure of the framework.

‘We are going to have to unpick the QOF to make it more focused on outcomes and less on process. We think it would be sensible to pick public health targets such as smoking cessation, to keep GPs focused on these issues.'

Mr Simmonds added: ‘I don't think it would be appropriate to get rid of all targets on 7 May. We are going to have to do it over a period of time.'

When the Government handed control of the QOF to NICE, it was expected to pursue a similar agenda, but in fact the institute has resisted calls for many more outcome measures because of concerns they do not accurately reflect the work GPs have done.

But in his speech to delegates at the conference, shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley said the party planned to ‘drive forward public health objectives' by measuring disease rates: ‘We will focus on results. While we do as well as the rest of Europe on heart disease, we are much worse on deaths from cancer, lung disease, osteoporosis and arthritis. We have more obese people and heavy drinking, and I am determined upon change.'

Dr Richard Vautrey, GPC deputy chair, said focusing on outcome measures was ‘simplistic'.

‘The QOF already focuses on the major long-term health issues. It is only one small measure of health policy and can't deliver on all areas.'

Professor Helen Lester, who leads the piloting process for new QOF indicators, said: ‘I think it's important to have intermediate outcomes rather than really downstream outcomes like mortality.'

Conservative shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley Conservative shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley

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