The RCGP has called on NHS England to suspend QOF in the event of a major health emergency this winter, to free GPs up to see patients ‘instead of ticking boxes’.
RCGP chair Dr Maureen Baker said the GP workload and workforce pressures are now so severe that ‘radical measures’ will be necessary if, for example, another flu epidemic strikes this winter.
Speaking at the RCGP’s annual conference, Dr Baker suggested that the Government has to look at ‘what activities GPs do that they can safely stop’ in order to ensure that they can ‘continue to provide safe patient care’.
She suggested that this would include the recording of QOF targets and perhaps even delaying time-consuming CQC inspections.
She said: ‘The pressures now affecting general practice are so severe that we hope NHS England will consider taking radical measures in the event of extreme pressures this winter, including suspending the QOF to ensure that GPs can look after patients rather that being overwhelmed with ticking boxes.’
‘If there is a major emergency – the likeliest thing is an outbreak of flu – how can practices cope? How can we continue to provide safe patient care? What activities do we do that we can safely stop in order to ensure that we continue to provide safe patient care? ‘The last quarter of the year tends to be the QOF catch-up quarter where we all do a lot of work to make sure we hit all the targets… [It is] the busiest time of the year and we’re doing this stuff for QOF. One suggestion is, if we do get into real capacity pressures, might we be able to make an arrangement to suspend QOF for a period of time?’
She also said she would approach chief inspector of general practice Professor Steve Field if he would halt CQC inspections.
She said: ‘I might say to him [that] if push really comes to shove and GP is under huge capacity pressures, what’s more important – seeing the patients or doing the paper work over a period of time?’
During the session, delegates voted overwhelmingly to reject the statement: ‘General practice has sufficent resources to provide safe patient care in the event of a major health emergency this winter.’
But NHS England chief executive Dr Simon Stevens said GPs should be turning to their CCGs for support to cope with winter pressures.
He said: ‘We have put £400 million cash into the NHS for this winter period, and it’s very important some of that is used for GP services over this period. The decisions on how that money will be used are being made by the CCGs, hospitals and local authorities.’
‘We are not going to magic up 8,000 more GPs this winter [so] my answer [would be] to get intimately involved in the conversations your CCG is having about how that money is used to support GPs over this time.’