Health checks for carers in QOF from 2014/15

Annual health checks for carers could be added to the QOF from 2014/15 after provisional targets were approved by a NICE expert panel.

Carer's health would be assessed on an annual basis under the news QOF indicator (SPL)

The move would see GPs earn points for keeping a register of patients who care for people with dementia and for assessing their health annually.

The panel also backed ambulatory BP monitoring for hypertension diagnosis, as revealed by GP (GP, 6 June). But proposals to screen for alcohol abuse were put on hold as GP experts warned about workload impact and lack of clinical evidence.

Negotiators will debate adding a register of rheumatoid arthritis patients to the QOF for 2013/14, a move also highlighted by GP earlier this year. The NICE panel recommended the measures along with annual reviews and CVD and fracture risk checks for these patients.

The measures to support carers will be piloted at GP practices across the UK after the decision by NICE's independent advisory committee at a meeting in Manchester last week. If agreed by negotiators, they would enter the QOF in 2014/15. GPs would earn points for keeping a register of carers and adding their contact details to dementia patients' records. Carers would also have their health and support needs assessed every 12 months.

Aberdeen GP Dr Colin Hunter, chairman of the QOF advisory committee, said: 'Anything to provide support should be recommended. It is very important to look after these people.'

Ambulatory BP monitoring to confirm a diagnosis of hypertension will also be piloted, despite concerns that practices could be forced to spend thousands of pounds buying, maintaining and servicing the devices.

However, the committee blocked proposals to roll out targeted screening for alcohol abuse in the QOF.

The UK National Screening Committee rejected population-level screening in December 2011. But NICE advisers controversially suggested GPs could call into their surgery all patients who had attended A&E with a minor injury and test them for alcohol use problems.

Patients with mental health problems, GI conditions or hypertension were also considered as target groups, but the committee voted to suspend the measure pending further review.

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