Government suspends GP performance targets

by Tim Tonkin

Performance targets for general practice are to be suspended in Northern Ireland to help boost GPs’ ability to cope with the demands posed by COVID-19.

Location: Northern Ireland
Published: Monday 16 March 2020
GP sat at desk.

GPs in Northern Ireland are to be freed from meeting the requirements of the QOF (quality and outcomes framework).

A series of annual targets used to measure the performance of practices, the decision to suspend QOF has been welcomed by Northern Ireland’s GPs, with practices assured they will face no financial detriment as a result of the decision.

BMA Northern Ireland GPs committee chair Alan Stout said Stormont’s decision to support GPs in meeting the health demands posed by the COVID-19 pandemic by freeing them from the burden of QOF showed ‘early and definitive’ action.

He said: ‘This news will come as a huge relief to practices who have been noticing the strain with increased concern and activity associated with COVID-19.

‘The early and definitive decision by our health minister shows an understanding and a determination to deal with the unprecedented situation and we are committed to working with him and his department to ensure safe and effective care to the public in Northern Ireland.’

Scale of the challenge

Practices have been assured the decision will have no effect on payments relating to the performance-assessment framework, and that surgeries will not lose out financially.

Northern Ireland health minister Robin Swann warned his government was under no illusions as to the scale of the challenge posed by the pandemic.

He warned that, with the number of infections likely to increase, certain health services such as non-urgent outpatient appointments and inpatient and diagnostic work, would need to be ‘significantly curtailed’ for health services to manage demand.

He said: ‘This is undoubtedly the biggest public health challenge for at least a generation.

‘We have now started freeing up resources in our health service to provide hospital care for the most seriously ill COVID-19 patients.

‘It will require a Government-wide and society-wide response, not only caring for those who fall ill but also providing support to anyone impacted by self-isolation and any social distancing measures that are put in place in the weeks ahead.’

Find out more about what the BMA is doing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic