Practice health check invites boost mental illness visits and QOF income

Writing to invite patients with mental illness for health checks could improve attendance and help practices earn thousands of pounds in QOF points, research suggests.

Checks vital for mentally ill (Photograph: SPL)
Checks vital for mentally ill (Photograph: SPL)

The scheme could earn QOF points worth £2,871 for an average-sized practice, University of East Anglia researchers said.

They found that inviting patients to an appointment more than doubled attendance rates compared with invitations asking patients to arrange a visit.

Lead author Sheila Hardy, a nurse practitioner in Northamptonshire, told GP: ‘I do think this method should be adopted nationally. It could help practices meet QOF targets.’

Patients with severe mental illness are at higher risk of cardiovascular, metabolic and other long-term comorbidities, so it is important they receive an annual health check, researchers said.

But a 2005 study found just one in five patients with severe mental illness responded to a letter asking them to arrange an appointment – only half the number of respondents from the general population.

Under the 2011/12 QOF, GPs can earn 22 points for ensuring patients with schizophrenia, bipolar affective disorder and other psychoses are checked for BMI, BP, alcohol consumption, cholesterol levels and blood glucose at least once a year.

The researchers wrote to 92 patients with severe mental illness inviting them to an appointment for a health check in 10 days. In addition, 416 patients with diabetes were invited.

Two-thirds (66%) of patients with severe mental illness attended as specified in the letter and three-quarters (81%) of diabetes patients attended. Patients with diabetes were 2.2 times more likely to attend.But the proportion of mentally ill patients who attended was far higher than predicted by the 2005 study.

The authors recommended that an invitation letter for patients with mental illness should become standard practice in primary care.

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