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BMA will push for QOF to be ‘retained but reformed’, says new GPC chair

The QOF should be retained and reformed, despite the health secretary and NHS England saying its days were numbered, the new chair of the GPC has said. 

In one of his first interviews as GPC chair, Dr Richard Vautrey said that his intention for the contract negotiations with NHS Employers, due to start imminently, was that QOF should be ‘retained but reformed’.

But both Jeremy Hunt and NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens are pushing for the end of QOF, with Stevens saying the health service was ‘committed in principle’ to replacing it.

Previously, GP leaders have voted against retaining the framework, which led to many believing that the QOF would be removed in the next round of contract negotiations, especially after a working group involving the BMA and NHS England was formed to consider its future. 

However, GP leaders at the LMCs Conference in Edinburgh earlier this year voted that ‘disinvestment in QOF was no longer desirable’, after expressing fears that the funding would be placed in new initiatives that would involve an increase in GP workload. 

Dr Vautrey has said that retaining the QOF against the wishes of NHS England would form part of the GPC’s negotiating strategy.

He told Pulse that while there were still indicators they wanted to ‘review and change’, most of them now ‘mirror what we are doing on a routine basis’.

He added that he would watch with interest the steps taken by his Scottish counterparts in scrapping the QOF entirely, retaining funding at each practice’s baseline and introducing a new ‘quality review’ system.

But the priority for now is to ‘ensure that there’s some stability in the system, that the resources are there, that practice systems can continue. And that’s what we’ll be looking at in the coming year.’

He said: ‘We try to do the will of Conference. Conference wanted a retained but reformed QOF, and they set the mandate for GPC. There’s no will from the conference to do away with QOF all together.

‘But it’s a negotiation. We will wait and see what the results of that negotiation is – as we do any year. We will look at the whole package and try to get the best deal possible for GPs.’

At the end of 2016 the head of NHS England, Simon Stevens, said that QOF needed to be done away with entirely, saying it had ‘delivered the gains it is going to produce’ and had now descended into box-ticking.

Jeremy Hunt said about QOF indicators in 2014 that he would ‘remove the lot of them if he could’.