Exclusive: NICE cancels GP advisory meeting on QOF

NICE has cancelled a meeting of independent GP advisors to the QOF just weeks after the GPC voiced concerns over the decision to scrap direct stakeholder input.

The regular meeting of GPs and other clinical advisors to the QOF, scheduled for December, was abandoned so that an internal NICE project team could instead create a set of draft indicators behind closed doors.

It marks the beginning of a significant shift in the framework towards NICE using its own guidelines and standards, instead of stakeholder suggestions, to develop new QOF indicators.

NICE denied the cancellation would delay changes to the framework and insisted the process was still 'open and transparent'.

It comes after the institute withdrew the system for proposing new QOF indicators in October. At the time, experts warned the changes may marginalise orphan conditions and exclude public and charity participation.

The GPC had said it would be 'extremely concerned' if the change made contributing ideas to the QOF more difficult.

The December meeting is the first to be cancelled since the committee was established in April 2009.

The QOF advisory committee, including many GPs, sits twice a year to discuss proposed indicators for the framework; hear the results of pilots in GP practices; and decide which indicators to put forward for consideration by GPC negotiators.

In future, NICE has said, the focus for the QOF will be provided by NICE's quality standards - statements of best practice that will also inform commissioning.

NICE's project team will now create draft indicators from NICE Quality Standards instead of from stakeholder suggestions as previously.

Draft indicators will then be discussed at the next planned meeting of the independent advisory committee in June 2012. Approved indicators will then be piloted and considered for inclusion in the framework.

A NICE spokeswoman said: 'Each proposed draft indicator/guideline recommendation put forward for indicator development will be part of an open and transparent process.'

She added: 'NICE’s QOF process ensures all potential indicators are tested across a range of GP practices, and consulted upon widely with individuals and stakeholder groups.

'This will continue to be the case for potential QOF indicators based on NICE Quality Standards.'

NICE's independent QOF advisory committee consists of healthcare professionals including GPs, patients and carers, commissioners and public health specialists.

Stephen Robinson

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