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Scotland first to abolish bureaucratic system of GP payments

Published: 15 Dec 2015 09:45

Agreement reached to dismantle QOF from April

Scotland will become the first country in the UK to completely abolish the existing burdensome system of GP payments, freeing up GPs to spend more time with patients.

Health Secretary Shona Robison today announced that the Scottish Government has reached agreement with the British Medical Association (BMA) Scotland, that will see the removal of all remaining Quality Outcome Framework (QOF)* points from the Scottish GP contract from April next year.

The new arrangements will significantly reduce the bureaucratic burden on GPs - reducing workload and freeing up GP time to spend with patients. There will also be transitional arrangements for quality assurance, ahead of a brand new Scottish GP contract coming into force in 2017.

All funding associated with the previous QOF system will transfer over to the core payment, ensuring there will be no reduction in the amount of money GP practices receive.

Health Secretary Shona Robison today welcomed the agreement reached with the BMA and said that the Government will continue to work constructively with the profession to ensure primary care gets the support it needs.

Ms Robison said: "Today's announcement of the removal of all QOF points from the next GP contract marks a significant shift towards placing more trust in the clinical judgement and professionalism of GPs.

"While over the years QOF has delivered many innovations, its time has passed and we must now look to a new and different future for GPs.

"This important change to the payments system will mean GPs can spend less time on paperwork, and get on with the job of treating patients who need them most.

"I'm pleased that, jointly with the BMA's Scottish General Practioners' Committee, we have delivered a good settlement for GPs for the next year. I hope the constructive working relationship we have with the profession will continue as we begin negotiations next year for a brand new Scottish GP contract from 2017."

The announcement comes ahead of a debate on community health services in the Scottish Parliament this afternoon, where the Health Secretary will outline her priorities for GP s and the wider primary care and community team over the next few years.

Ms Robison will point to the on-going work to support primary care and GP practices, including efforts to address the challenges GPs face with workload and recruitment issues as well as Scotland's increasingly elderly population.

Speaking ahead of the debate, Ms Robison said: "Today's debate provides an important opportunity to thank all of those who work on the frontline of health and social care – and particularly those in primary care teams who do so much for patients in the community.

"We recognise that many GPs are facing particular challenges with recruitment and retention, as well as seeing more patients through their doors with more complicated needs.

"Indeed, statistics published today show that while the number of GPs working in Scotland has increased by nine per cent since 2005, the number of patients over 65 has also increased by 18 per cent over the same time period. Our out-of-hours primary care services are also relied on by hundreds of thousands of patients across Scotland each year.

"We need new ways of working to ensure our GP and primary care systems are fit for the future. That is why we are working on a brand new contract for Scottish GPs from 2017, and will be the first in the UK to abolish QOF from April.

"That is why we've also committed £60 million over three years through the Primary Care Fund to test new models of delivering community care and improve the ease with which patients can access their local services.

"That is why we announced in October an extra 100 GP training places to encourage more medical students into the profession, and an increase in our support for return to practice schemes that bring experienced GPs back into the health service.

"And finally, that is why we'll be working on delivering the recommendations in Sir Lewis Ritchie's recently published Review into out-of-hours community services that was commissioned by this Government.

"These are all concrete and practical examples of our support for Scotland's primary care services. We will, working with GPs themselves, redesign primary care for Scotland's communities and ensure our services are fit for the future."

Notes to editors

*The Quality & Outcomes Framework (QOF) represents one of the main sources of potential income for general practices across the UK. It is a major part of the new General Medical Services (GMS) contract, introduced on 1st April 2004. For those that do participate, the QOF measures achievement against a range of evidence-based indicators, with points and payments awarded according to the level of achievement.

The Quality and Outcome Framework was reduced from 1000 points to 923 in 2013/14 and by a further 264 points to 659 in 2014/15.

The agreement for 2016/17 will also put in place transitional arrangements for quality assurance, ahead of the new contract coming into place in April 2017.

The Scottish Government debate Redesigning Primary Care for Scotland's Communities will be led by the Health Secretary. Watch the full debate on the Scottish Parliament website from 2.20pm: http://www.scottishparliament.tv/

ISD statistics, General Practice – GP workforce and practice list sizes (2005 – 2015) and GP Out of Hours Services in NHS Scotland (1 April to 30 September 2015) are published on the ISD Scotland website: http://www.isdscotland.org/