The QOF publication for England provides healthcare organisations, analysts and researchers with a rich source of information on the provision of primary care services. However it is recognised that levels of QOF achievement will be related to a variety of local circumstances, and should be interpreted in the context of those circumstances. Users of the published QOF data should be particularly careful when comparing practices. The Information Centre does not recommend or endorse the use of QOF data for league tables as the number of QOF points only reflects part of the work that a general practice is responsible for.
The ranking of practices on the basis of QOF points achieved, either overall or with respect to areas within the QOF, may be inappropriate. QOF points do not reflect practice workload issues such as the size of the population that a practice covers or the number of patients with long term conditions such as diabetes and asthma – that is why practices’ QOF payments include adjustments for such factors.
Comparative analysis of practice or PCT level QOF achievement may also be inappropriate without taking account the underlying social and demographic characteristics of the populations concerned. The delivery of services will be related, for example, to population age/sex, ethnicity or deprivation characteristics that are not included in the QOF data collection processes.
Measuring the quality of care is not a simple process. The indicators on which this release of information relies can only be a partial measure of true quality. The QOF score for 2004/05 and 2005/06 covers long term conditions affecting a minority of patients and only some aspects of the care for such patients. However it does provides information (on prevalence, cholesterol levels and blood pressure for example) on a scale previously unavailable, and provides valuable information to help benchmark the delivery and quality of care in the future.
Where does QOF data come from?
Most of the data for QOF is taken automatically from GP practice computer systems through a national system called the Quality Management and Analysis System (QMAS), developed by NHS Connecting for Health: www.connectingforhealth.nhs.uk/delivery/programmes/qmas.
- Clinical achievement data is extracted automatically from individual GP practice computer systems once a month. Practices can also make additional submissions of data at any time.
- The information on organisational, access, patient experience and additional service data are entered by the practice directly onto QMAS.
- Practices that don’t have computer systems linked to QMAS can send information to their PCT, who will enter it manually on their behalf.
How to access the data
The Information Centre collates the data on GP practice achievement results and presents it in three forms:
- this easy-to-use website that allows patients to see how well their GP practice is achieving
- for healthcare professionals and other researchers wanting further analysis, spreadsheets and tables are also available at: www.ic.nhs.uk/qof
- A bulletin containing details of the QOF Achievement results: www.ic.nhs.uk/pubs/qof
Viewing the website
The website had been optimised for viewing in a current standards-compliant browser – Internet Explorer 5.5 & 6, Firefox and Opera are supported on a PC, Safari and Firefox are supported on Mac OSX. Due to the size of the QOF results charts, a monitor with a resolution of at least 1024x768 pixels is recommended.
How are the QOF points calculated?
QOF is the annual reward and incentive programme that is now reporting the second year of results. QOF is a voluntary process for all surgeries in England and was introduced as part of the GP contract in 2004. Achievement points are available in four main areas, commonly known as domains:
- Clinical care covering the major chronic diseases such as asthma, cancer, coronary heart disease and diabetes – surgeries can achieve up to 550 QOF points
- Good organisation covering how well surgeries records and information about patients, patient communications, education and training, practice management and medicine management – surgeries can achieve up to 184 QOF points
- Positive patient experience covering how well surgeries manage patient surveys and consultation length - surgeries can achieve up to 100 QOF points.
- Extra services, for surgeries that provide cervical screening, child health surveillance, maternity services, and contraceptive services – surgeries can achieve up to 36 QOF points.
There are further bonus QOF points that surgeries can be gain for overall clinical achievement (surgeries can achieve up to 100 QOF points), overall achievement in the organisation (surgeries can achieve up to 30 QOF points) and access standards (surgeries can achieve up to 50 QOF points).
What results can I show for the listed practices?
By checking the options in the display panel you can compare:
- practice result against local PCT average scores
- practice result against national average score
- practice result against last year's result
- clinical achievement results for your practice against PCT average results
- clinical achievement results for your practice against national average results
- clinical achievement results for your practice against last year's achievements.
These searches give you high level results, however if you want to carry out more detailed and complex research and analysis information in excel spreadsheet format go to:
What it can tell you
You can use this specially designed website to make specific searches on achievement in the follow ways:
- Search for any GP practice in England
- Find the overall achievement score for any practice
- Breakdown the achievement by a series of clinical measures
- Compare local surgery achievement with last year’s achievement, with other surgeries in the local area and national averages
- Discover explanations of the QOF clinical indicators
What it cannot tell you
- The full set of QOF points – this site shows only the overall results and the clinical indicators scores. A full breakdown of all the QOF scores is available in the QOF section of The Information Centre's website:
- QOF cannot show you how well your surgery treats you, as there is no patient-specific data in QOF. The QOF information is collected at an aggregate level for each general practice and does not refer to specific patients.
- Your own chances of surviving a disease, such as asthma or diabetes. This is dependent on your individual circumstances such as your age and general health.
- How your GP practice compares with all the practices in England and with individual Primary Care Trusts, a full breakdown of QOF scores is available in the QOF section of The Information Centre's website:
- QOF only reflects part of the work that a general practice is responsible for, as such The Information Centre does not recommend or endorse the use of QOF data for league tables, such as the number of QOF points.
Printing the results
The results pages are optimised for printing. To ensure that the charts print correctly please enable the 'print background colours and images' option in your browser preferences. In Internet Explorer the setting can be found in the 'Internet Options...' item in the Tools menu – select the 'Advanced' tab and scroll down to the printing settings.