Quality and outcomes framework (QOF) GP performance targets are to be suspended in Northern Ireland to help boost GPs’ ability to cope with the demands posed by COVID-19.
The decision has been welcomed by Northern Ireland’s GPs, with practices assured they will face no financial detriment as a result of the decision.
BMA Northern Ireland GPs committee chair Alan Stout said Stormont’s decision shows “early and definitive” action.
He said: “This news will come as a huge relief to practices who have been noticing the strain, with increased concern and activity associated with COVID-19.
“The early and definitive decision by our health minister shows an understanding and a determination to deal with the unprecedented situation and we are committed to working with him and his department to ensure safe and effective care to the public in Northern Ireland.”
Practices have been assured the decision will have no effect on payments relating to the performance-assessment framework, and that surgeries will not lose out financially.
Northern Ireland health minister Robin Swann said his government is under no illusions as to the scale of the challenge posed by the pandemic. He warned that, with the number of infections likely to increase, certain health services such as non-urgent outpatient appointments and inpatient and diagnostic work, would need to be “significantly curtailed” for health services to manage demand.
He said: “We have now started freeing up resources in our health service to provide hospital care for the most seriously ill COVID-19 patients.
He said the pandemic will require a Government-wide and society-wide response, not only caring for those who fall ill but also providing support to anyone impacted by self-isolation and social distancing measures.