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Wales suspends QOF until end of March amid winter pressures

GPs in Wales will not be required to record their QOF performance until the end of March, the Welsh Government has announced.

The suspension of QOF was announced alongside £10m worth of extra funding for the Welsh NHS to cope with winter pressures.

This comes as GPs and hospital trusts across the UK were struggling to cope with patient demand during the holiday season and into January.

On Wednesday, GP leaders in North Wales told Pulse that hospitals in the area were ‘creaking at the seams’ amid ‘a spike in genuine flu’, while patients were struggling with ‘three-week waits’ for GP appointments.

The Welsh Government said the decision to ‘relax’ the QOF element of the GP contract until 2018 ‘recognises the impact of winter pressures not only on the NHS, but on GPs and the wider primary care team across Wales’, adding that the measure would ‘enable GPs and practice nurses to manage their most vulnerable and chronically sick patients during the winter period’.

It took the same measure in January last year, agreeing to pay practices based on the previous year’s achievement.

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The Welsh Government had already put £50m towards the NHS coping with winter pressures, but Welsh health secretary Vaughan Gething said that ‘despite this significant investment, what we have seen in the recent days is a system that is under extreme pressure’.

He said this included the ambulance services reporting ‘increases of up to 50% in life threatening incidents when compared to last year at times over Christmas’; NHS 111 receiving ‘twice as many calls as predicted on New Year’s Day’; while the out-of-hours service ‘continues to face huge demands’.

Mr Gething said: ‘We know both primary care and [A&E] services across Wales are currently extremely busy…

‘This additional funding will go some way in helping relieve the pressure on the system.’

He added that he would ‘like to thank all of our NHS staff who are showing, day in day out, great resilience in responding with compassion for patients’.

‘The system only works because of staff working within our NHS. They have my gratitude.’