Do the UK government's new Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF) scores adequately measure primary care performance? A cross-sectional survey of routine healthcare data

BMC Health Serv Res. 2007 Oct 17;7:166. doi: 10.1186/1472-6963-7-166.


Background: General practitioners' remuneration is now linked directly to the scores attained in the Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF). The success of this approach depends in part on designing a robust and clinically meaningful set of indicators. The aim of this study was to assess the extent to which measures of health observed in practice populations are correlated with their QOF scores, after accounting for the established associations between health outcomes and socio-demographics.

Methods: QOF data for the period April 2004 to March 2005 were obtained for all general practices in two English Primary Care Trusts. These data were linked to data for emergency hospital admissions (for asthma, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, coronary hear disease, diabetes, stroke and all other conditions) and all cause mortality for the period September 2004 to August 2005. Multilevel logistic regression models explored the association between health outcomes (hospital admission and death) and practice QOF scores (clinical, additional services and organisational domains), age, sex and socio-economic deprivation.

Results: Higher clinical domain scores were generally associated with lower admission rates and this was significant for cancer and other conditions in PCT 2. Higher scores in the additional services domain were associated with higher admission rates, significantly so for asthma, CHD, stroke and other conditions in PCT 1 and cancer in PCT 2. Little association was observed between the organisational domain scores and admissions. The relationship between the QOF variables and mortality was less clear. Being female was associated with fewer admissions for cancer and CHD and lower mortality rates. Increasing age was mainly associated with an increased number of events. Increasing deprivation was associated with higher admission rates for all conditions and with higher mortality rates.

Conclusion: The associations between QOF scores and emergency admissions and mortality were small and inconsistent, whilst the impact of socio-economic deprivation on the outcomes was much stronger. These results have implications for the use of target-based remuneration of general practitioners and emphasise the need to tackle inequalities and improve the health of disadvantaged groups and the population as a whole.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Catchment Area, Health
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Demography
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • England / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Health Status
  • Healthcare Disparities / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mortality*
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Patient Admission / statistics & numerical data*
  • Primary Health Care / standards*
  • State Medicine
  • Vulnerable Populations / statistics & numerical data