QOF suspended in Wales as NHS winter pressure drives up demand

The Welsh government has suspended most QOF requirements for practices in order to free up capacity to deal with winter pressures.

QOF data: Welsh framework relaxed to help GPs (Photo: JH Lancy)
QOF data: Welsh framework relaxed to help GPs (Photo: JH Lancy)

From today practices can choose to opt out of up to 75% of QOF points with no financial loss.

GP leaders have welcomed the move, which they believe will reduce bureaucracy and allow GPs to focus on patient care during the busy period. 

The plan aims to allow clinicians to spend more time managing the most vulnerable and chronically sick patients as demand for services increases significantly.

Health secretary Vaughan Gething said the action would relieve pressure on primary care.

‘Instead of patients being called in for routine appointments automatically at the busiest time of the year, doctors' and practice nurses' time will be freed up to see patients, prioritising those urgently requesting appointments because they are ill.

GP workload

No GP practice will lose out financially as a result of QOF relaxation,' he added. A letter from the government and BMA explained that practices will be able to opt out of 75% of the total 567 points. The only elements which will remain compulsory will be  two Influenza indicators worth 20 points and the cluster network domain indicators worth 115 points.

The letter added: ‘The intention is to ensure that no GP practice loses out financially as a result of QOF relaxation up to 31 March 2017. Accordingly, for each indicator the practice elects to opt out of, the achievement for 2016/17 will be compared with the 2015/16 achievement for the relevant indicator and the health board will make a payment to the practice at the higher of the two levels of achievement. This will be set out in the revised legal Directions.

Reducing bureaucracy

GPC Wales chair Dr Charlotte Jones said: ‘This welcome move will have a positive effect on practices by reducing bureaucracy and box ticking, as well as releasing capacity which will enable GPs and practice nurses to focus on the complex care needs of their patients at a particularly busy time.

‘We are committed to working in partnership with the Welsh government to continue improving working conditions for GPs in Wales, and this agreement demonstrates what can be achieved through collaboration on an agreed vision.’

GPC England has opposed proposals by the government to extend the QOF submission deadline by a month. The committee has said in discussions that such a move would not free up GP time and could delay payments to practices.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said earlier this month that the NHS could take measures to release GP time to ‘support urgent care work’.

The RCGP has called on the government to suspend the QOF to allow GPs to focus on patient care.

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