Time then for a quick glass of celebratory champagne for GPs and their teams to toast their hard work and for chronic disease patients to mark their improved health.
Only the grins at the DoH might be a little forced, especially if they start muttering the words ‘over-performance’ under their collective breaths again. The Whitehall mandarins would appear to define over-performance as meaning anything that costs more than they budgeted for.
The latest figures support the view, however, that GPs are indeed offering a high level of service and that they and their teams can easily adapt to new circumstances.
After a mere two years of the quality framework, the average score in Northern Ireland is 1,028 points, 98 per cent of those available. Even in Wales, where practices have to contend with higher prevalences, average scores have broken through the 1,000-point mark.
That is not to say that all the problems have been solved — clearly inner-city areas are more difficult to do well in because of transient populations and the predominance of small practices which may find it harder to deal with the administration involved in the framework. Then there is the on-going issue of how prevalence can be skewed by the inclusion of extreme data from one or two specialist or unusual practices.
Despite these worries quality scores have risen, showing how quickly GPs have come to terms with the implementation and management of quality issues in the surgery.
Those muttering DoH officials may have hoped that the introduction of new quality markers for this year would cut quality earnings, but the evidence would suggest otherwise. Practices have proved their ability not only to keep patients’ health on target but also to create systems to report this.
It will be no different for the next indicators.