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DH places strict conditions on how CCGs spend quality premium

CCGs have been blocked from passing their quality premium directly to their member practices and will have to spend it instead on improving patient care and narrowing health inequalities, according to new regulations drafted by the Department of Health.

The regulations reveal the Government has accepted the NHS Commissioning Board’s recommendation that quality premium payments cannot be passed directly to GP practices as a ‘bonus’, as Pulse exclusively revealed in January.

The payments – expected to be worth around £5 per patient for CCGs – can only be used to ‘secure improvement in the quality of health services or the outcomes achieved from the provision of health services’, or reduce health inequalities according to regulations laid before Parliament yesterday.

The regulations also call on the board to publish its procedure for making the payment before the beginning of the financial year, as well as the amount that is to be paid, which it has not yet done for 2013/14.

The Government confirmed a previous announcement from the board that it will withhold or reduce payments if the CCG has failed to stay within budget that financial year, not adhered to the NHS constitution; or not complied with directions given by the board.

The quality premium will be paid to CCGs that achieve targets set by the board, including reducing avoidable emergency admissions, rolling out the friends and family test, reducing incidence of healthcare associated infections and reducing potential years of lives lost through amenable mortality.

When the quality premium payments were first announced, it was thought they could be given to practices in the form of payments.

However, Dame Barbara Hakin, national director of commissioning development at the NHS Commissioning Board, told Pulse that the board was going to recommend it should be used to directly target improving health outcomes.