What's On the Menu

NICE has published its menu of potential indicators. These indicators will then go to the negotiators for the decision of what goes into the QOF for 2011-12.

There is not a lot of "wow" here. There majority of changes reflect a tidying up of the current indicators with some made more explicit. There are no big ideas or even a unifying style to the indicators. Let's see what is ahead.

NM07: The percentage of patients with a history of myocardial infarction from 1 April 2011 currently treated with an ACE inhibitor (or ARB if ACE intolerant), aspirin or an alternative anti-platelet therapy, beta-blocker and statin (unless a contraindication or side effects are recorded)

A big wrap up here. CHD 9, 10 and 11 are combined with a requirement for a statin, regardless of cholesterol level. In fact CHD 7, the requirement to test cholesterol is also scheduled to go - the outcome measure remains. Actually this is just an assumption as the actual notes only suggest the replacement of CHD 11, but they must mean 9 and 10 as well, surely?

Personally I don't like these big indicators - they end up with horribly complex business rules, particularly when exception reporting comes in to play. Other than being awkward there is not much new here.

NM09: The percentage of patients with a new diagnosis of dementia from 1 April 2011 to have FBC, calcium, glucose, renal and liver function, thyroid function tests, serum vitamin B12 and folate levels recorded 6 months before or after entering on to the register

My least favourite form of indicator I'm afraid. Miss out in the first six months of diagnosis and you are stuck with that for ages. Depending where they put the threshold a slow start could affect results for years to come. Similarly success will result in several years payments. Much more sensible would be a new diagnosis within the year studied.

NM12: The percentage of patients with diabetes with a record of testing of foot sensation using a 10 g monofilament or vibration (using biothesiometer or calibrated tuning fork), within the preceding 15 months

A tidy up of the wording of DM 10. Nothing new.

NM13: The percentage of patients with diabetes with a record of a foot examination and risk classification: 1) low risk (normal sensation, palpable pulses), 2) increased risk (neuropathy or absent pulses), 3) high risk (neuropathy or absent pulses plus deformity or skin changes or previous ulcer) or 4) ulcerated foot within the preceding 15 months

DM 9 tidied with the risk classification added. Minor changes only.

NM15: The percentage of patients with schizophrenia, bipolar affective disorder and other psychoses who have a record of alcohol consumption in the preceding 15 months

I suspect that the wording here is misleading and they are not going to insist on the mentally ill having a couple of beers. They seem actually mean a record of the amount of alcohol consumed. This is the start of an extensive mental health section.

NM16: The percentage of patients with schizophrenia, bipolar affective disorder and other psychoses who have a record of BMI in the preceding 15 months

There is little doubt that modern antipsychotics make you put on weight; indeed AstraZenica have just paid out on this. This is probably a large part of their potential to increase the risk of diabetes. I'm sure the guidance will explain what to do with the overweight in this group.

NM17: The percentage of patients with schizophrenia, bipolar affective disorder and other psychoses who have a record of blood pressure in the preceding 15 months

Currently MH9 is a general annual MOT for those on these registers. This includes a physical review. Most GPs do a blood pressure as part of this. This group of indicators replaceme MH9. Attentive readers may be wondering why NM07 combined various indicators and MH4 is being unbundled and whether there is any guiding strategy here. I know I am.

NM18: The percentage of patients aged 40 and over with schizophrenia, bipolar affective disorder and other psychoses who have a record of total cholesterol: hdl ratio in the preceding 15 months

I expect some changes to this one in negotiations most likely to the use of total cholesterol rather than the ratio. Certainly our local lab advise HDL measurement sparingly and only once per person. Currently we have only recently agreed for the lab to do HDL measurement when the total cholesterol is low for QOF purposes in new hypertensives. Expect objections from chemical pathologists. This would be a closer monitoring of cholesterol, and particularly HDL than for patients with heart disease, strokes or diabetes. The associated documents don't comment on this.

NM19: The percentage of patients aged 40 and over with schizophrenia, bipolar affective disorder and other psychoses who have a record of blood glucose level or HbA1c in the preceding 15 months

More checks on the mental health register. Worth doing for patients on antipsychotics but for patients with bipolar the evidence base is less clear.

NM20: The percentage of women aged 25-64 (in Scotland from 21 to 60) with schizophrenia, bipolar affective disorder and other psychoses who have a record of cervical screening within the last 5 years

NICE says they don't like double counting but these patients will also count for the main cervical screening indicators. There could be some quite small numbers here. The average number of patients on the mental health register is just over 48. If we assume roughly half are female and some of those are outside the age range then this indicator will apply to less than 20 patients per typical practice. Likely a lot fewer in some practices.

Percentage of patients on the Learning Disability register with Down's Syndrome aged 18 and over who have a record of blood TSH in the previous 15 months (excluding those who are on the thyroid disease register)
I certainly don't want to put down the importance of thyroid function to patients with Down's but I am left wondering how big the problem is at the population level. The economic analysis (which is fairly dire) suggests one in 1000 live births. Down's can be associated with heart problems and other issues which increase childhood mortality and even after that life expectancy, whilst rising, is still reduced. So lets say two thirds are over 18. That would be fewer than four patients in a typical practice and maybe one or even none at all for a small practice. Small numbers make bad indicators and is this really the best use of an indicator?

The percentage of patients with a new diagnosis of dementia from 1 April 2011 to have FBC, calcium, glucose, renal and liver function, thyroid function tests, serum vitamin B12 and folate levels recorded 6 months before or after entering on to the register.

Simple cheap tests. It is worth mentioning small numbers again. It would be worthwhile practices checking in January whether they have diagnosed someone with dementia in the previous year to get this indicator, if implented. If they have not then they would need to hunt someone out to get the points (tongue slightly in cheek, but only slightly).

The percentage of women with epilepsy under the age of 50 who are taking antiepileptic drugs who have a record of information and counselling about contraception, conception and pregnancy in the previous 15 months

Probably small number here again. Quite how otherwise intelligent women will feel about being told the same thing annually will be seen. There is no lower age limit stated here but the lower limit for the epilsepy register is 18, which is probably too late to start. In reality this will likely become part of the annual review.

And now some more brief points

  • The lowest level of HbA1c target for diabetes has been increased from 7% to 7.5% although these are no expressed in mmol/mol.
  • The depression assessment indicator changes wording from "the outset of treatment" to "the time of diagnosis". In fact it always was the latter in the business rule. No real change.
  • The second assessment moves from 5-12 weeks later to 4-12 weeks later. Probably a little easier
  • For patients on lithium the creatinine and TSH must now be measured after the first of July rather than in the previous 15 months.
  • For these patients the lithium must now be in the correct range after the First of December rather than July. All blood tests are still only required once a year though, just in more limited months. Unlikely to have the desired effects.
  • Risk assessment for new hypertensives has the wording brought up to date with the current practice of only looking at those 30-74. This has been in the business rules for a while.
  • CHD 2 is to have the date updated to next April and the emphisis changed from excercise tolerance testing to clinical assessment.

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