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15% of QOF to be tied to public health targets

By Gareth Iacobucci

The Government has unveiled plans to tie 15% of QOF payments to public health targets as part of radical shake-up of GP funding.

The plans, launched today in the Government's public health white paper Healthy Lives, Healthy People, will redevelop QOF to place a greater emphasis on primary prevention, with the new Department of Health body Public Health England to be responsible for 15% of current QOF funding.

The public health white paper says: ‘Incentives and drivers for GP-led activity will be designed with public health concerns in mind.'

‘To increase the incentives for GP practices to improve the health of their patients, the department proposes that a sum at least equivalent to 15% of the current value of the QOF should be devoted to evidence-based public health and primary prevention indicators from 2013.'

The radical blueprint will see at least £4 billion of public health budgets ringfenced a year, with the majority of public health services being commissioned by local authorities, and a new public health premium introduced to reduce health inequalities.

The plans, which are now out for consultation, also propose for public health directors to be moved to local councils to work as ‘champions' of healthy living.

Representatives from GP consortia will be required to sit on new local wellbeing boards, along with new directors of public health, directors of adult and children's social services, local healthwatch and, where appropriate, the NHS Commissioning Board. GP Consortia will also have an 'explicit obligation' to prepare Joint Strategic Needs Assessments with local authorities.

Public Health England and the new NHS commissioning board will be charged with working collaboratively to ensure GP consortia ‘maximise their impact on improving population health and reducing health inequalities'.

The white paper pledges to make GP practice performance more publicly available, to enable local communities to ‘challenge GPs to enhance their performance' in giving public health advice.

The Department also vowed to strengthen the focus on public issues during the education and training of GPs, as part of its workforce strategy.

Launching the plans this afternoon, Health secretary Andrew Lansley said: 'Too often in the past, public health budgets have been raided by the NHS to tackle deficits. Not any more. The money will be ringfenced to be used as it should be – for preventing ill health.

'People's health and wellbeing will be at the heart of everything local councils do. It's nonsense to think that health can be tackled on its own. Directors of Public Health will be able to champion local cooperation so that health issues are considered alongside housing, transport, and education.

'Everyone should have services tailored for them, at the right times in their life from the professionals closest to them. With local authorities in the driving seat, supported by the latest evidence on behaviour change from Public Health England, we will start seeing significant improvements in the nation's health.'

15% of QOF funding is to be tied to public health targets 15% of QOF funding is to be tied to public health targets