Scotland will become the first country in the UK to scrap the quality and outcomes framework, the points-based system through which GP practices have gained payment for meeting clinical targets.
The Scottish government announced today that it had reached agreement with the British Medical Association to remove all remaining QOF points from the Scottish GP contract from April next year.
“The QOF’s time has passed and we must now look to a new and different future”
Health secretary Shona Robison claimed that new arrangements would significantly reduce the bureaucratic burden on practices.
There will be transitional arrangements for quality assurance, ahead of a new Scottish GP contract coming into force in 2017, she said.
All funding associated with the previous QOF system will transfer over to the core payment, ensuring there will be no reduction in the amount of money GP practices receive, she added.
The QOF has represented one of the main sources of potential income for general practices across the UK for more than a decade.
It is a major part of the General Medical Services contract, introduced by Labour in April 2004, and heavily involved practice nursing staff due to its focus on the management of long-term conditions.
In Scotland, the QOF was reduced from 1,000 points to 923 in 2013-14 and by a further 264 points to 659 in 2014-15.
Ms Robison welcomed the agreement reached with the BMA, stating that ministers would continue to work constructively with the profession to ensure primary care received the support it needed.
Ms Robison said: “While over the years QOF has delivered many innovations, its time has passed and we must now look to a new and different future for GPs.”
The announcement comes ahead of a debate on community health services in the Scottish parliament this afternoon, where Ms Robison will outline her priorities for primary and community care teams over the next few years.
She will point to ongoing work to support primary care, including efforts to address workload and recruitment challenges, as well as Scotland’s increasingly elderly population.
Ms Robison said: “Today’s debate provides an important opportunity to thank all of those who work on the frontline of health and social care – and particularly those in primary care teams who do so much for patients in the community.
“We need new ways of working to ensure our GP and primary care systems are fit for the future,” she said. “That is why we are working on a brand new contract for Scottish GPs from 2017, and will be the first in the UK to abolish QOF from April.”
Speaking ahead of the debate, Royal College of Nursing Scotland policy adviser Rachel Cackett said: “If primary care services are to meet the needs of our communities in the future, we need a fully resourced workforce, working in the right way and in the right place.
She added: “Politicians of all parties debating the future of primary care services must give equal weight and attention to all health care staff working tirelessly out in our communities.
“None of them work in isolation – it’s a team effort, and whether that’s doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, community pharmacists or other specialists, their combined efforts need to be recognised if we are to have sustainable primary care services in the future,” she said.