• GP incentive scheme to be temporarily suspended to free-up GPs in covid-19 response
  • Payments for the QOF will continue, however
  • Remote GP appointments for elderly to be rolled out ‘as priority’
  • Digital services should cover all routine primary and secondary care activity as soon as possible

The quality outcomes framework incentive programme for GPs will be among requirements on GP practices that will be temporarily suspended as part of the NHS’ effort to remove “routine barriers” to the national covid-19 response.

The NHS is “reviewing and where appropriate temporarily suspending certain requirements on GP practices and community pharmacies,” according to operational guidance issued in a letter from NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens and chief operating officer Amanda Pritchard on Tuesday.

These will include the QOF incentive programme, HSJ understands. GPs will continue to receive the income from the QOF scheme “if other routine contracted work has to be substituted”, the guidance said.

This is one of several measures being taken by the NHS so it can “devote maximum operational effort to covid readiness and response”.

GPs have been calling for the NHS to suspend the scheme because it comes with time-consuming paperwork and obliges GPs to provide care which could be deemed superfluous in light of the current health crisis, including sometimes bringing people to the surgery, which has an infection risk.

The operational guidance also said remote GP appointments should be rolled out to the elderly and vulnerable “as priority” to help with the medical response to coronavirus, according to NHS leaders.

It said vulnerable patients who are expecting to have routine or planned GP appointments should have access to either video, phone, email and text message consultations.

The letter adds that once the elderly and vulnerable have been set up, the focus should turn to extending digital services “to cover all important routine activity as soon as possible”. Face-to-face appointments should only happen “when absolutely necessary”.

The letter states: “David Probert, chief executive of Moorfields Foundation Trust, is now leading a taskforce to support acute providers rapidly stand up these capabilities, with NHSX leading on primary care.”

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