This week have been looking at the QOF progress in my own practice and I noticed that the depression figures seemed a little odd. The number of patients needing a second depression assessment (Dep 3) was rather larger than the number of patients needing the first assessement (Dep 2). According to the guidance the former should be a subset of the latter.
Just a reminder of what the indicator says
DEP 3: In those patients with a new diagnosis of depression and assessment of severity recorded between the preceding 1 April to 31 March, the percentage of patients who have had a further assessment of severity 5 – 12 weeks (inclusive) after the initial recording of the assessment of severity. Both assessments should be completed using an assessment tool validated for use in primary care.
Indeed the guidance goes on to say:-
New diagnoses are those which have been made between the preceding 1 April to 31 March.
Clear? There is a slightly odd consequence to this. FIt is difficult to count the need for assessment towards the end of the year. With a first assessment in January the second could be due after all of the data is sent to QMAS. This would tend to work in a practice's favour.
This was not what I actually saw on my practice figures. I looked at the latest version of the business rules (warning - highly geeky) and it seemed all was not well. These are the rules that govern the data that is sent to QMAS for payment and the data that ultimately appears on the QOF Database web site. This year's rule was looking way back past 1st April - back to the start of December 2009 looking for diagnoses.
I got in touch with the NHS Information Centre who are the latest organisation to be in charge of the business rules. It turns out that there is no mistake. The rules were set, in consultation with NHS Employers, to try to fix the issue described earlier. In the process the rules now contradict the wording of the indicator and the guidance.
So what do the rules now say? The "yes" and "no" groups have split slightly so it is worth specifying the numerator and denominator groups separately.
Numerator: Patients who have had a second assessment from the previous 1st April to 31st March. The second assessment must be between 5 and 12 weeks after the first and the first, in turn must be within four weeks after the diagnostic code.
Now the denominator :-
Denominator: Patients in the numerator (i.e. Yes)
and also patients for whom the date of 12 weeks following their first assessment is within the previous 1st April -31 March and who have not had that second assessment (i.e. No)
Those who you failed to get at the end of one year are carried over to the next. The successes are counted in the same year.
What does irk me is not the fact that this was changed - indicators are changed and improved over time - but that this alteration from the original meaning has never been announced anywhere other than the business rules. The description of the indicator, although clearly now misleading, has not been altered. Similarly the guidance remains inaccurate. The business rules are hardly the first port of call for a busy GP.