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QOF suspended in Northern Ireland to ease pressure on GPs

QOF targets in Northern Ireland have been suspended for the rest of the financial year in a bid to take some pressure off struggling GP practices.

The Department of Health confirmed the move in a letter to practices at the end of last week.

Practices can choose whether to receive payment based on their actual performance against agreed QOF targets for 2016/17 or on their average QOF performance over the previous two years.

It comes after BMA forms asking GPs for undated resignations were delivered to GP practices a month after the Department of Health failed to announce a rescue package for general practice.

Northern Ireland GPC chair Dr Tom Black said while the move would help provide some relief from the administrative burden on practices, he criticised the delay in getting it in place while GPs were working in ‘unacceptable circumstances. 

‘While we are grateful that this suspension will go some way to free-up GPs to spend more time with patients, it is only a temporary measure and will not address the systemic problems in primary care,’ said Dr Black.

‘Any opportunity to reduce the bureaucratic burden on general practice should be implemented with the greatest of urgency, particularly in the backdrop of a collapsed Assembly and no meaningful political will to address the crisis in general practice.’

The news comes as the GPC in England has called for a suspension of QOF until the financial year end.

And the local LMC and three CCGs have agreed to drop 80% of QOF requirements in Leeds to free up ‘headroom and clinical capacity.’

But last week chief executive Simon Stevens said that, based on legal advice, suspending QOF for the rest of year ‘would not be possible’.