The Health Foundation has published a new report entitled Financial Incentives, Healthcare Providers and Quality Improvements.

The report is timely given the current debate between the government and GPs about the most effective way of paying GPs and extending access to their services.

Much of the evidence examined in the report is gathered from the US. Professor Martin Roland, director of the National Centre for Primary Care Research and Development, has provided a commentary on the implications for the future use of incentives in the UK.

Evidence from the report suggests that the impact of financial incentives on outcomes of care does not appear to be as strong as some have claimed.

It is therefore important to use incentives cautiously, to limit their size as a proportion of overall income and to carefully evaluate new initiatives. It is also clear that incentives should be used as part of a package to improve quality of care, alongside other approaches, such as patient choice, commissioning and clinical audit.

The report also highlights that many of the areas targeted by incentives were areas doctors were addressing already, making it fairly easy for them to achieve their targets. In many cases, this meant doctors were rewarded for what they were already doing, rather than incentivised to improve.

To download the report and read Martin Roland's commentary, please see: