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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.’