QOF suspended across Leeds to ease 'incredible strain' on GP practices

GPs in Leeds have agreed a deal to suspend 80% of QOF clinical targets for the rest of the current financial year while protecting practice funding.

GPC deputy chair and Leeds LMC assistant medical secretary Dr Richard Vautrey
GPC deputy chair and Leeds LMC assistant medical secretary Dr Richard Vautrey

CCGs and LMC leaders in the city have agreed the deal to help practices cope 'at a time of unprecedented demand in the healthcare system'.

Practices will be allowed to opt out of up to 80% of QOF targets for the rest of 2016/17 under the package agreed between Leeds LMC and the city's three CCGs - Leeds North, Leeds West and Leeds South and East CCGs.

To stop practices losing out financially, QOF payment for 2016/17 will be paid either as normal or in line with 2015/16 achievement - whichever is higher.

GP workload

The GPC has asked NHS England to implement similar measures nationally to help GPs cope with soaring pressure in the ongoing NHS winter crisis. The Leeds agreement comes just weeks after the RCGP called for the suspension of QOF, CQC inspections and appraisal.

NHS Wales has already given GPs the option to drop three quarters of QOF targets for 2016/17 without losing out financially.

More than 50 hospitals in England declared high-level alerts because of extreme pressure in each of the first three weeks of 2017. GPs have reacted angrily to suggestions from prime minister Theresa May that GPs were partly to blame for soaring pressure on hospitals, and the GPC last month rejected comment from health secretary Jeremy Hunt that GPs could be asked to prop up urgent care services.

GPC deputy chair and Leeds LMC assistant medical secretary Dr Richard Vautrey told GPonline: 'It is an encouraging step forward that there is now an understanding by governments in Wales, Northern Ireland and now CCGs in Leeds that practices are also under significant winter workload pressure. This is placing many GP practices under incredible strain and damaging their ability to provide enough appointments to patients.

NHS crisis

'Removing the need for practices to chase QOF targets so that they can focus on patient care is the right decision. We have called on NHS England to do the same, as well as ensure they continue to put pressure on central government to deliver additional resources that GP services badly need.

'Leeds practices have had to cope with a serious failure of the pathology results service last year and the LMC has been pushing the CCGs to recognise this by relaxing the QOF requirements this year. Leeds LMC are pleased that they have done this and also recognised the significant workload pressures that are impacting on practices as well as hospital and community services.'

A letter to Leeds practices signed by CCG and LMC leaders says practices will have already completed a significant amount of QOF work for 2016/17 and that most targets can be suspended for the rest of the financial year without putting patient care at risk.

The letter says that of 559 available clinical points in the QOF, 'GP practices will be able to opt out of approximately 80%'.

The following indicators cannot be dropped under the Leeds agreement:

  • Maintenance of all validated disease registers
  • Influenza targets (CHD007, STIA009,DM018,COPD007)
  • Cervical Cytology targets CS002
  • Palliative care: PC002
  • Cancer: CAN003
  • Areas related to treatment and diagnosis including AF006/007; HF002/003/004;PAD004; MH009/MH 010

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