NICE to develop alcohol screening QOF targets

GPs could be asked to screen certain patients for alcohol misuse, after NICE advisors approved the development of new QOF indicators, but proposals for depression targets were rejected as 'unworkable'.

Strong evidence for clinical and cost effectiveness of alcohol screening.
Strong evidence for clinical and cost effectiveness of alcohol screening.

At a meeting in Manchester last week, NICE's QOF advisory panel agreed to develop an indicator to screen for alcohol misuse and offer a brief intervention for a subset of patients.

Advisors said screening the whole practice list was impractical and contrary to current guidance from the UK National Screening Committee.

Instead, any indicator accepted into the QOF would focus on screening those people with a condition particularly worsened by heavy drinking, such as hypertension.

The panel heard how there is now strong evidence for the clinical and cost effectiveness of alcohol screening and brief intervention.

One GP member had warned that QOF was 'not really the right tool to look at a public health problem'. Others said some patients may feel the approach is too intrusive.

But the group agreed that alcohol misuse remained a 'big concern' and a clinical issue for primary care.

NICE's indicator development team will report back in June with the wording for the potential target. If approved by advisors, this would then be piloted among GP practices.

However, the panel rejected plans for indicators on longer term antidepressant therapy for people with depression as it 'just doesn't work in the QOF'.

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