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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Health minister suspends QOF to ease pressure on GPs

GPs in Wales will be relieved from almost the whole of the QOF until April following an agreement by the Welsh Government and the GPC.

Under the agreement, practices will be paid for all indicators based on last year’s achievement, with the exception of flu vaccinations and the domain relating to working in clusters, although GPs will be able to opt in to individual indicators if they want to improve on last year.

Health secretary Vaughan Gething said the move was designed to ‘create more capacity’ to manage vulnerable patients over winter, while GPC Wales said that it would ‘reduce box ticking’ and have a positive effect.

The GPC in England has been pushing for the removal of the QOF, and it is expected that this is forming part of ongoing contract negotiations, while NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens has also said the QOF has ‘reached the end of its useful life’.

The Scottish Government and GPC have already agreed to remove the QOF altogether, and are currently working on developing an alternative. 

However, despite claims from UK health secretary Jeremy Hunt that he wants to free GPs’ time this winter to support urgent care services, there have been no measures put in place to achieve this – with the DH withdrawing a tweet that said it would look to extend the QOF reporting period.

Mr Gething said: ‘The positive action we’ve taken today will help ease pressure on primary care. I’d like to thank GPs and practice nurses across Wales for their hard work and commitment to their patients during this busy winter period.

‘Instead of patients being called in for routine appointments automatically at the busiest time of the year, doctor and practice nurse’s time will be freed up to see patients, prioritising those urgently requesting appointments because they are ill.’

GPC Wales chair Dr Charlotte Jones said: “This welcome move will have a positive effect on practices by reducing bureaucracy and box ticking, as well as releasing capacity which will enable GPs and practice nurses to focus on the complex care needs of their patients at a particularly busy time.

‘We are committed to working in partnership with Welsh Government to continue improving working conditions for GPs in Wales, and this agreement demonstrates what can be achieved through collaboration on an agreed vision.’

Readers' comments (6)

  • If I'm honest I may have been a smidgen critical of the BMA in the past
    God bless you Charlotte,well done,an absolute triumph of common sense sanity and leadership
    Thankyou

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  • Why can't common sense prevail in England? I wonder.
    Time to abolish the Formula and pay all Practices for the number of patients they have and not indulge in non-transparent underhand dealings with Practices underpaid where young people are frequently self harming while the posh areas where the senior population have private healthcare being given additional income. Come on this country is not just for the rich! It is built on the sweat and tears of the hard working lower and middle class who deserve better funding.

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  • Thankyou for the comments. Just one little clarification - practices can choose whether to opt in out BUT will be paid according to the higher their level of achievement of 15/16 cf 16/17 and not only as per their 15/16 achievement. Hope this helps.

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  • QOF uses none of my patient contact time. Suspend QOF, no less work for me or a well organised practice. Please can we get past this ridiculous idea that suspending QOF is going to help GP land.

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  • I agree with Beaker. A few years back Somerset CCG came to discuss their QOF replacement scheme with us. We didn't buy it in Bristol because it would mean losing QOF income (largely nurse delivered) in favour of the replacement scheme (largely delivered by GPs)

    In the rest of the UK, QOF will never be suspended without some other hoop to jump through - which is likely to be even more onerous.

    How about just increasing capitation? Is that too much to ask? I guess it is.....

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  • I don't get it. How will this prevent admission to hospital? We are costantly told that proactive management is the key to managing LTC's and preventing admissions, and QOF provides the framework for achieving this. Patients with minor conditions may be overloading urgent care centres but they are not the patients who find themselves on trolleys in the Emergency Department. Even if GP's saw all of the patients with minor illnesses, the problem of ED breaches (the measure the government is obsessed with) would not be solved.
    Do the peoeple who come up with these ideas even know the difference between UCC and ED and the difference between the patients attending them? All I ever hear in the media is the term A+E - a department that no longer exists in my area.
    The vast majority of patients in ED actually need to be there and we should expect them to increase in number if we neglect the management of their long term conditions by suspending QOF.

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