Exclusive CCGs in Essex will top up QOF income for 2020/21 if the current payment arrangements would have caused a loss to practices, Pulse has learned.
QOF activities were largely put on hold in 2020/21, with practices told by NHS England they would be paid based on their previous activity levels so they could focus on tackling the pandemic.
Under current arrangements the 354 income-protected QOF indicators for 2020/21 will predominantly be based on 2018/19 QOF activities – meaning practices that achieved higher QOF scores in 2019/20 are set to lose cash.
But Pulse has learned that GPs in Essex are set to have their QOF payments boosted by local commissioners so that those that haven’t achieved a higher income in 2020/21 will receive the same income as they did in 2019/20.
In an email to practices this month, Mid and South Essex CCGs said that practices had ‘received automated reports from the national system on QOF achievement that do not reflect the commitment given [by the CCGs] to protect practices’ QOF incomes for 2020/21’.
The email, seen by Pulse, reiterated the pledge and reassured practices that the CCGs ‘will deliver on it’.
The CCGs said that the Mid and South Essex STP will provide extra QOF payments for practices that achieved a higher QOF income in 2019/20 than the previous year. It advised practices to sign off payments shown on the CQRS reporting system – even though it may not reflect the additional payment, which will come later.
A CCG spokesperson told Pulse: ‘The CCGs were keen to ensure GPs were supported during the unprecedented pressure. In January 2021, the health system declared a major incident, due to the Covid pandemic.
‘Changes were made across the health and care system to ensure that partners could best respond to both immediate need and proactive work. This included temporary changes to primary care commissioning arrangements.’
Essex LMC deputy chief executive Dr Vaiyapuri Raja told Pulse the ‘proactive’ move from the CCGs to make sure practices ‘get what they deserve’ is ‘excellent’, but that the process for accessing the funding will be key.
He said: ‘Obviously when the finer details come in hopefully there are no surprises in it – asking practices to jump through hundreds of hoops to get to [the funding]. I hope it’s not anything like that, just based on a system that’s very simple. It’s a great step forward and we’re just waiting for further details.’
BMA guidance on 2020/21 QOF indicators, updated last month, said that ‘most of these indicators will be protected based on 2018/19 achievement levels [but] at 2020/21 QOF point value, prevalence and list size’.
Indicators that were new last year, however, will be based on 2019/20 achievement as this is the first year of available data, it added.
The BMA previously told Pulse the decision to base most income protection on 2018/19 achievements was taken because this is the last complete year of data, due to parts of QOF being suspended during the pandemic.
It comes as GPs are expected to restart all QOF activity from this month, as QOF payments protection ended at the end of March.
But Pulse revealed last month that GPs can refer patients requiring spirometry for an asthma diagnosis to secondary care in order to achieve QOF points from this month.
Meanwhile, GPs have warned that some practices could lose income when the four flu indicators in QOF being retired and replaced with new incentives in the Investment and Impact Fund (IIF) from this month.
And it was revealed in March that GP practices will not be able to exclude any eligible patients when reporting against the new childhood vaccinations and immunisations QOF indicators that launched this month.