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QOF mental health indicators have no impact on suicide rates, says study

Incentivising GPs to improve care for patients with a mental illness through QOF has had no affect on suicide rates, according to new research.

The study from the University of Manchester and University of York investigated the relationship between severe mental illness (SMI) and depression QOF indicators and the suicide rates in England from 2006 to 2014.

The paper, published in The British Journal of Psychiatry, concluded that while 38,511 suicides were recorded in England during that time, there was no association between QOF indicator performance and local suicide rates.

The researchers noted that although depression and SMI are common among people who die by suicide, some may not experience these symptoms and others may not be diagnosed by their GPs.

But they added that GP efforts can have positive results in the reduction of suicide rates.

The authors wrote: ‘Primary care has an important role to play in suicide prevention, but we did not observe a link between practices’ higher reported quality of care on incentivised mental health activities and lower suicide rates in the local population.

‘It is likely that effective suicide prevention needs a more concerted, multiagency approach.’

They added that improved GP training in suicide prevention ‘is also essential’.

The House of Commons Health Committee recommended last year that GPs should receive more training in detecting patients at risk of suicide.

Meanwhile, the Government announced last month that it would be trialling a new four-week waiting time standard for children and young people referred for mental health treatment by GPs.

Readers' comments (3)

  • Doctor McDoctor Face

    There needs to be research that shows that research proves that GPs know what they are doing without some micromanaged dross.

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  • AlanAlmond

    Of cause it doesn’t. QOF is just a system devised by the government to pay GPs for what they do. It’s the GPs who do the work preventing suicide. QOF is a payment mechanism, oft masquerading as something more important to benefit the egos of administrators.

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  • However, I’m sure there is good evidence for poor mental health in GPs due to QoF.

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