During an NHS England primary care webinar on Thursday 3 June, an attendee asked if there was ‘any chance’ QOF could be suspended for this financial year to allow practices to ‘focus on other priorities’.
An NHS England official responding to comments posted: ‘There are no plans for QOF to be suspended or income protected for 2021/22.’
Suspending QOF was one of a range of suggestions put forward by LMCs at their annual conference last month to help practices deal with the growing workload crisis in primary care.
QOF was suspended throughout 2020/21, with income from the framework protected, to allow practices to concentrate on dealing with the pandemic and then delivering the COVID-19 vaccination programme.
However, many practices are now working harder than ever, dealing with soaring demand and additional work created by rising waiting lists and the backlog of care in hospitals, while also delivering COVID-19 jabs.
A GPonline analysis this week of data gathered by the RCGP Research and Surveillance Centre found that GP practices have delivered a third more clinical administrative work – including prescriptions and referral letters – and 8% more appointments in the past five weeks compared with the same period in 2019.
GP clinical administrative workload – covering prescriptions, referral letters, messages to patients and other tasks – was 34% higher in weeks 16-20 of 2021 compared with the same five-week period in 2019, before the pandemic began.
The figures are likely to be an underestimate because the data do not capture work on the COVID-19 vaccination programme, and may underestimate numbers of phone consultations.
LMCs have argued that measures such as scrapping CQC inspections, suspending QOF and PCN targets, as well as developing a system to alert LMCs when practices are dealing with a high number of consultations, are essential to take pressure off practice teams.
Senior BMA GPs met with health and social care secretary Matt Hancock last week to demand an end to ‘micromanagement’ of general practice – and demanded ‘meaningful support to reduce the workload pressures facing GPs and their teams’.