The Quality and Outcomes Framework was introduced in April 2004 as part of the new national GP contract. It offers practices up to 1000 points if they deliver on a range of services. These points attract financial resources into the practice. Many of the points relate to evidence-based clinical interventions proved to benefit patients with illnesses such as asthma, diabetes and other long-term conditions: others are linked to the organisation and to patients' experience of the practice.
Dr Brian Dunn, chairman of the BMA's General Practitioners Committee in Northern Ireland, said:
"I am delighted and proud to say that once again Northern Ireland GPs and their staff have achieved the highest results in the UK. They have proved how hard they are working to achieve these targets and by doing so they are improving the lives of patients. If you look at the points available for clinical work the results show that, on average, practices achieved over 98%. It has already been predicted that thousands of heart related problems, including heart attacks and strokes, will be prevented over the next five years largely because of the Quality and Outcomes Framework. That's work that will save many thousands of lives, it will prevent the misery of illness and it will save the NHS money. This is particularly important in Northern Ireland where we have one of the highest rates of coronary heart disease in the world.
"The BMA in Northern Ireland is, however, very concerned about the delay in the implementation of several aspects of the Review of Public Administration. This Review was designed to deliver savings for use in improving frontline patient care and further delays will negatively impact on this goal. We would urge the NI Health Minister, Michael McGimpsey MLA, to take forward urgently the much needed reforms recommended by the RPA.
"The health service has begun to turn itself around and we are worried that this progress is going to stall if there are further delays. One of the advantages for patients has been the reduction in waiting times with new targets for March 2008. The current uncertainty caused by the delay in implementation of RPA may mean this good work will be put in jeopardy."