Practices will be judged on retired QOF targets, says NHS England

Practices' performance on QOF indicators will continue to be judged by the CQC, NHS England area teams and CCGs even in areas where targets are retired and funding is withdrawn, it has emerged.

Monitoring of GPs' performance on QOF will continue even in areas where targets are withdrawn

The regulator and commissioners will use data on retired QOF indicators mined from surgeries' computer systems to judge practices' overall quality of care from April 2014, according to NHS England.

GP leaders have warned the DH and NHS Employers to expect falls in achievement due to more relaxed coding, and not necessarily because standards of care have slipped.

The QOF will shrink by 40% in 2014/15 following the GP contract deal between the government and the GPC.

This will strip 40 indicators from the framework in a move to reduce bureaucracy in GP workload.

But a letter from NHS England to local area teams about the contract deal said the retirement of indicators should not reduce 'appropriate clinical workload’ in these areas.

‘NHS England will use data extracted from GP practice systems and reported through the Calculating Quality Reporting Service (CQRS) to ensure continued transparency about quality and outcomes in relation to the areas in which indicators are retired.

‘This will enable NHS England’s commissioning teams, CCGs and the CQC to take this information into account in reaching more rounded judgements about the quality of care provided by general practice and in supporting transparency for patients and the public.’

'Expect fall in achievement'

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said practices had to face the ‘reality’ of ‘more comprehensive’ scrutiny over extracted performance data, including on retired QOF targets.

‘Practices just need to be aware that this monitoring is going on and that it will be part of public information. That’s not to mean they should be obsessed by it in the same way QOF targets were. But they need to be mindful of that.'

He added: ‘We’ve made it clear to the DH and NHS Employers that there’s an expectation that the current level of achievement in various QOF measures will fall.

‘What we hope will happen now is that while overall coding will inevitably reduce, coding will be done in much more clinically appropriate way, and GPs use their professional judgement when needed.’

He said the CQC and the public must remember that there is ‘far more to general practice’ than what can be recorded and coded. ‘It’s the subtle art of general practice that is often far more important, and which is often not recorded,’ he said.

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