Who loses what?

As many of you are probably aware the site has had information about the potential loss of cash to practices under the government's proposed imposed changes to the QOF in England. If you have not seen this you can click on the link on the left of each of the practice pages. There is also table of the changes effects at PCT level.

Of course now that we have these statistics we can look at the breakdown a little. As I have said before the threshold changes will mostly affect those who have had most problems in meeting the targets. The practices that have tended to have lower score have tended to be those in more deprived areas. A reasonable hypothesis would be that more deprived practices tend to loose out more.

We can go onto test this. Helpfully the deprivation index for most practices was published as part of last year's GP patient survey. We can put all of this together in a spreadsheet and work out the loss per patient for the threshold changes and overall for whole set of changes. Not difficult as we have practice list size from the QOF data as well.

As it turns out there is a correlation between the deprivation and the cash lost through threshold changes at practice level. For the mathematically minded the correlation is 0.13 - not particularly strong but it is there. In practical terms the thousand least deprived practices are to loose 62 pence per patient whilst the thousand most deprived practice will loose 84 pence per patient - a difference of 12 pence. For a "typical" practice of 5891 patient this works out at £1,287 per year between the most and least deprived practices.

This all looks pretty bleak but there is another factor that works against this effect. The removed points take more from practices that have gained all of these points in the past. Statistically these tended to be practices in the least deprived areas. If we bring in the removed points then the effect almost disappears. The correlation drops to 0.03 which is small enough to be ignored.

So balance is restored - whether by luck or judgement! It does however give some idea of the less obvious effects of changes to QOF.

Less cash for QOF says HMG

It has been a busy few weeks. Just as I was starting to digest a report suggesting the development of the QOF then the negotiations for changes to next year's GMS came crashing to a halt. The report is still worth reading, if only for the summary of research done with QOF data thus far.

There is a pretty good summary of the situation in a letter from Laurence Buckman - chair of the GPC which I would recommend reading. In summary, for the impatient, the government (only in England for now) is imposing changes to the contract to move cash from QOF and Choose & Book and put it towards increased hours of availability. This, we are told, its only priority for primary care this year. Arguably this is a move from quality to quantity

As far as QOF is concerned several indicators are to be removed taking with them a total of sixty points.

  • Holistic points (20 of them) - points for consistency - all gone
  • Records 3 (1 point) - communication with out of hours service
  • Education 4 (3 points) - induction training for new staff
  • Management 2 (1 point) - computer back up
  • Management 4 (1 point) - instrument sterilisation to national standards
  • Management 6 (2 points) - job description for all new posts
  • Management 10 (2 points) - employee procedure manual (absence, bulling etc)
  • Medicines 4 (3 points) - repeat prescriptions in 72 hours - 48 hour target remains
  • Medicines 11 (7 points) - medication review for patients on four or more medications (review for all patients remains)
  • CS 5 (2 points) - there is a system for inform women of smear results
  • CHD 12 (7 points), Stroke 10 (2 points), DM 18 (3 points) and COPD 8 (six points) - flu jabs in high risk groups

As there are 1000 points in the QOF a rather obvious bit of maths shows a 6% drop already. There is more, however. Initially the scoring area for each of the indicators started at 25%. This was increased two years ago to 40% and this new imposition will increase it to 50%. The top thresholds for payment will also be increased to something around the mean of current achievement. This second part is likely to be more significant for most practices. Pretty much by definition half of practice would be expected not to hit this higher threshold.

The effect of all this remains to be seen. We already know that exception reporting tends to be reactive - i.e. there is more exception reporting when below the threshold than above it. This is largely because practices stop reporting when they get over the threshold. It would not be unreasonable to expect a bit of an explosion in exception reporting with these changes. Of course there will almost certainly some increase in achievement but the extent is uncertain.

We can use the data we already have to try to model the effect of these changes - and apply them to last 2006/7 data although with the caveat above. This should be online in the next day or so.