The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) would in future oversee the annual process of reviewing clinical indicators for the Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF), under new proposals set out in a public consultation published today (30 October 2008).
From April 2009, NICE would review the benefits to patients and the cost effectiveness of the indicators used to assess the quality of care provided by GP practices.
NICE would also be responsible for developing a more transparent and inclusive review process with input from patients and carers, primary care professionals and other stakeholders.
However, the final choice of QOF indicators would remain a matter for negotiation with the British Medical Association (BMA), based on the advice produced by NICE.
The 12-week consultation is seeking views on how the new process for assessing evidence for QOF indicators should work. Key considerations include how to allow a range of "stakeholders", including patients, to identify potential QOF priorities, and giving flexibility to the local NHS to select some indicators to reflect local health needs.
Announcing the consultation, health minister Ben Bradshaw said: "We have come a long way in addressing health inequalities thanks to the current GP scheme for quality incentives, and the UK leads the world in providing incentives to GPs to improve quality of care for patients.
"The latest figures for the QOF show that practices have continued to deliver improvements in services for patients, but the system needs to evolve to support practices in achieving even better outcomes for patients.
"Asking NICE to manage a more independent, open and transparent process for reviewing QOF indicators will make sure that we make the best use of our annual investment in the scheme and continue to support GPs in delivering the best care possible for patients, allowing the QOF to adapt and respond to the latest medical advances."
Professor Peter Littlejohns, Clinical and Public Health Director at NICE, said: "NICE welcomes today's proposals for the reform of the QOF. One of NICE's acknowledged key strengths is the robustness of its process for assessing what is both clinically effective and what represents best value for the NHS.
"By contributing to the process of developing and reviewing performance indicators for GPs, we can ensure that the principles behind our recommendations are reflected in the QOF."
Dr Mike Dixon, Chairman of the NHS Alliance, said: "The QOF has made UK GP practices the most accountable in the world. The new arrangements with NICE provide it with even greater credibility and, what's more, will make a real difference to the quality of care our patients receive."
Should NICE oversee the QOF? Your comments: (Terms and conditions apply)
"Yes, especially for looking at effectiveness of cost against benefit to patients" – L Bzdek, Berkshire
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