Workload and reward in the Quality and Outcomes Framework of the 2004 general practice contract

Bruce Guthrie, Gary McLean, Matt Sutton

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    61 Citations (Scopus)


    Background The Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF) of the 2004 UK General Medical Services (GMS) contract links up to 20% of practice income to performance measured against 146 quality indicators. Aim To examine the distribution of workload and payment in the clinical domains of the QOF, and to compare payment based on true prevalence to the implemented system applying an adjusted prevalence factor. We aimed also to assess the performance of the implemented payment system against its three stated objectives: to reduce variation in payment compared to a system based on true prevalence, to fairly link reward to workload, and finally, to help tackle health inequalities. Design of study Retrospective analysis of publicly available QOF data. Setting Nine hundred and three GMS general practices in Scotland. Method Comparison of payment under the implemented Adjusted Disease Prevalence Factor, and under an alternative True Disease Prevalence Factor. Results Variation in total clinical QOF payment per 1000 patients registered is significantly reduced compared to a payment system based on true prevalence. Payment is poorly related to workload in terms of the number of patients on the disease register, with up to 44 fold variation in payment per patient on the disease register for practices delivering the same quality of care. Practices serving deprived populations are systematically penalised under the implemented payment system, compared to one based on true prevalence. Conclusions The implemented adjustment for prevalence succeeds in its aim of reducing variation in practice income, but at the cost of making the relationship between workload and reward highly inequitable and perpetuating the inverse care law.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)836-841
    Number of pages6
    JournalBritish Journal of General Practice
    Issue number532
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2006


    • Family practice
    • Quality healthcare
    • Physician incentive plans
    • Workload


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