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Pay for performance: has the controversy about the Quality and Outcomes Framework been settled?
Jamie Robinson, the Berkeley health economist, famously remarked in 2001 that ‘the three worst ways to pay doctors are salary, capitation and fee-for-service.’ Different financial incentives produce different clinical and service outcomes, sometimes perversely.1 In 2004, the UK government introduced pay for performance (P4P) for general practitioners, the Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF). Its introduction was associated with the general trend in the National Health Service away from placing implicit trust in doctors and more active monitoring of their performance. One-quarter of GP pay can be earned from achieving scores on 147 indicators.2 These indicators were acceptable to doctors because the majority are evidence-based clinical outcome measures for 10 chronic diseases. Others relate to patient access and satisfaction, and practice organisation.
In the early years, there was concern that QOF might increase health disparities due to ethnicity or socio-economic circumstance. Two recent papers, one from London on cardiovascular outcomes and another from Scotland on type 2 diabetes outcomes …