Objective: The new contract for primary care in the UK offers fee-for-service (FFS) payments for a wide range of activities in a quality outcomes framework (QOF), with payments designed to reflect likely workload. This study aims to explore the link between these financial incentives and the likely population health gains.
Methods: The study examines a subset of eight preventive interventions covering 38 of the 81 clinical indicators in the quality framework. The maximum payment for each service was calculated and compared with the likely population health gain in terms of lives saved per 100,000 population based on evidence from McColl et al. (1998).
Results: Maximum payments for the eight interventions examined make up 57% of the total maximum payment for all clinical interventions in the (QOF). There appears to be no relationship between pay and health gain across these eight interventions. Two of the eight interventions (warfarin in atrial fibrillation and statins in primary prevention) receive no incentive.
Conclusions: Payments in the new contract do not reflect likely population health gain. There is a danger that clinical activity may be skewed towards high-workload activities that are only marginally effective, to the detriment of more cost-effective activities. If improving population health is the primary goal of the NHS, then FFS incentives should be designed to reflect likely health gain rather than likely workload.