Leeds QOF suspension deal 'not legal', says NHS England

NHS England chief Simon Stevens has said a deal struck between GP leaders and CCGs in Leeds to suspend the QOF to ease pressures on practices is not legal.

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens (Photo: Alex Deverill)
NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens (Photo: Alex Deverill)

Chief executive Simon Stevens told NHS England’s board meeting on Thursday that ‘legal advice is clear’ that individual CCGs changing the QOF elements of the national contract ‘would not be possible’.

GPonline first reported the deal struck between three Leeds LMCs and commissioners earlier this month. Under the agreement practices will be allowed to opt out of up to 80% of QOF targets for the rest of 2016/17, with protection to ensure they do not lose out financially.

But Mr Stevens told NHS England bosses: ‘There was a suggestion that individual CCGs might choose to change the national contract in respect of QOF at the back end of this year in Leeds.

‘Legal advice is clear that that would not be possible. And in fact is not the approach that we are going to be taking given that a lot of practices have said to us that 10 months into the year, messing around with the QOF payments would be very unfair. And wouldn't actually create a lot of extra headroom for the other pressures that they are facing.’

GP crisis

GPC deputy chair and Leeds LMC medical secretary Dr Richard Vautrey said Mr Stevens' comments were 'surprising' given that NHS England previously gave permission for Somerset CCG to suspend the QOF to 'recognise the acute pressures on their practices'.

'It seems that there is one rule for their approach to relaxing routine work done in hospitals and quite another for general practices who are under similar if not greater workload pressures. Suspending QOF won't solve practices' workload pressures but will make a tangible difference and has been widely welcomed by the practices in the areas where it has been suggested. We will look at the legal issues that Simon Stevens raises and consider the implications.'

GPonline revealed last week that NHS England had rejected calls for an England-wide suspension of QOF because of feedback from practices, despite support for the move from both the RCGP and the GPC.

A spokeswoman for Leeds CCGs said they were not able to comment.

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