The Department of Health announced yesterday that it will be handing responsibility for reviewing clinical indicators included in the GP quality and outcome framework to the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.

The DH had first proposed the change in a consultation last year.

It said NICE would take on its new role from 1 April. But it will not get the final say on which indicators should be included.

“The final choice of QOF indicators will remain a matter for negotiation between the British Medical Association and NHS Employers, based on the advice produced by NICE,” a DH statement said.

‘Best evidence’

NICE implementation director Val Moore said the institute was setting up a committee to review indicators, which would include commissioners among its members.

She said: “High quality care depends on decisions made on the basis of the best evidence.

“Placing NICE at the heart of the process that will ensure that QOF continues to support healthcare professionals in delivering outcomes to patients that are among the best in the world is a strong endorsement of NICE and our considerable expertise and experience gained over 10 years of producing evidence-based clinical and non-clinical guidance.”

But it was unclear what level of input primary care trusts would be allowed to have in selecting indicators locally.

‘Stronger commitment’

PCT Network director David Stout said: “We welcome the confirmation that NICE will have a greater part to play in overseeing the independent process of developing and reviewing QOF indicators which should allow for greater flexibility for PCTs.

“However, PCTs are keen to see a stronger commitment from the Department of Health on promoting a more local element to the QOF.

“This would allow PCTs to focus investment in the local areas or services that need it most, which could be effective in reducing health inequalities.”

A DH spokesman said: “We remain committed to empowering the local NHS to have a say in how investment should be used to the benefit of their populations. The new NICE-led process will provide clinical and cost effectiveness evidence which PCTs can use for local quality schemes.”

NHS Employers joint acting director Alastair Henderson said: “We believe that the new process will over time allow primary care trusts more local flexibility in commissioning services, and that it will certainly help to deliver cost and clinical effectiveness.”