Exclusive: NHS England rejected QOF suspension 'because of opposition from GPs'

NHS England has claimed it rejected calls for nationwide suspension of the QOF - backed by both the BMA and RCGP - because of feedback from 'a number of GP practices' that the move could be unfair and of little practical help.

The comments come after GPonline obtained a BMA letter to NHS England formally calling on health service officials to sanction national suspension of the pay-for-performance framework to ease soaring pressure on primary care.

GPC leaders voiced frustration that NHS England has refused to suspend the QOF nationwide despite a local deal struck between Leeds LMC and the city's three CCGs to scrap it for the rest of 2016/17, with practices offered a mechanism to prevent them losing out financially.

The GPC is also angry that deals to suspend QOF have been struck for GPs across Wales and Northern Ireland, while in Scotland the QOF has now been scrapped - leaving England as the only UK nation to reject calls to ease practice workload in this way.

GP leaders have warned that practices across England are 'buckling under workload pressure', with a BMA poll published in late November 2016 warning that eight in 10 GPs in England now say their workload is unmanageable.

The NHS winter crisis - which saw scores of hospital trusts declare high level alerts in January this year and many unable to maintain routine services - has further driven up pressure on primary care.

The RCGP also called for the suspension of QOF, appraisals and CQC inspections as the winter crisis neared its peak.

But NHS England appears to have definitively ruled out the move.

QOF income

An NHS England spokesperson said: 'Having talked to a number of GP practices, it’s clear they are concerned that messing with QOF this late in the year would be unfair, especially given the work they have put into it over the past 10 months; nor would it be likely to do very much practically to help practices or hospitals over the next eight weeks.'

GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey told GPonline: 'Where QOF has been suspended in Wales, Northern Ireland and now in Leeds, and when it was suspended at a similar time of crisis in Devon and Cornwall a few years ago, it has been well received by practices as a positive signal by the commissioners that they truly understood the pressures practices were under and were prepared to do more than just offer supportive words but were willing to take what steps they could to easy the bureaucratic burden that many practices face towards the end of the year.

'NHS England should listen to the representatives of the profession and follow the lead set by colleagues across the UK.'

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