The Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF) is one government target that has brought real benefit to patients across the UK, the BMA has said.
Responding to a report from Civitas, which claims the QOF offers inappropriate financial incentives, Dr Laurence Buckman, Chairman of the BMA's GP Committee, said:
"It is very disappointing that this document is short on evidence and long on opinion about one aspect of the GP contract that has brought real benefit to patients. A lot of government health targets have distorted clinical care – the 48 hour access target, for example, doesn't allow doctors to prioritise their patients on the basis of need.
"Yet the QOF is different. It was never intended as just an incentive payment; its introduction marked a huge step forward in the government's promise to address health inequalities across the UK. Unlike other government targets, it was developed in close partnership with the profession, together with experts and the involvement of patient groups.
"Through the QOF, a process is now in place which means patients in the very early stages of the diseases which kill the majority of people in this country are actively sought out and their conditions are managed systematically. Over the long-term, the QOF will save many lives and it means patients can be confident that they will get the same consistent, evidence-based care wherever they live in the UK."
Responding to claims within the report that GPs have been "gaming", Dr Buckman added:
"There is no published evidence that GPs are 'gaming' and the statistics on exception reporting, which this refers to, show it is the lowest it has ever been. The assertions in this report are based on anecdotes that are without evidence."
Although patients' health was improving before QOF, the rate and consistency has gathered pace since its introduction. The intervention standards – linked to workload and likely benefit – which the report claims are too modest, have been recommended by a large, independent group of experts and are based on published evidence.