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Tips to prepare your practice for the QOF year-end

7 March 2024

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QOF expert Dr Gavin Jamie runs through his top five tips for getting your QOF data polished and submitted in good time

The end of the contract year is a busy time for practices, as they need to have all their Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF) data ready for submission by the end of March.

Making sure the data are accurate and entered properly into the system will ensure the practice receives the correct payment promptly.

Here are some tips to prepare for the QOF year-end and ensure the process goes smoothly.

1. Log in to your CQRS account

QOF data will normally be automatically extracted from the practice computer system on the night of the 31 March. This will then appear on the CQRS system for approval by the practice.

It is important that at least one person in the practice has an active account. Passwords expire annually and often this happens around the end of February or early March, so make sure to check you have access in plenty of time.

There should be some QOF data already visible on CQRS, although this is purely indicative. Only the final submission of the year will count towards payment.

With the Easter holiday period coming up it is important to have someone available to sign off the QOF data during the first couple of weeks of April. If your usual user will be on leave, make sure you have an alternative user lined up.

Note that the CQRS cannot be accessed from the internet – it must be done using an NHS connection.

Before the end of March data for the Quality Improvement indicators will need to be entered manually onto CQRS (see below)

2. Check your data daily

You should be able to monitor your QOF data using your practice computer system. Do this on a daily basis for the last few weeks of March.

As QOF will always look at the most recent data, it is possible to lose points as new test results come in. For example, asthma patients can pop back onto the register if they are issued an inhaler and had not already had one during the QOF year.

It should be part of your daily routine to check if any indicators have slipped backwards as a result of recent updates, and to correct them. Pay particular attention to indicators that are close to the upper threshold. Once April arrives there will be no opportunity to update the coding.

I would advise using the ‘look ahead’ searches that measure what would happen if you did no further QOF activity until the end of March. Using a ‘how am I driving’ search can cause issues, as QOF records that were updated in March 2023 expire over the course of the month, which can mean some unpleasant surprises.

3. Consider your prevalence

Most practices get close to the maximum number of points so the main route to increase income is through prevalence. While this might be a little late in the year for prevalence-adjusted indicators, there are several areas that have prevalence payments but no other indicator requirements.

Searching for a weight measurement but no BMI calculation is a quick way to pick up patients that may be missing from the obesity register. Similarly search for patients started on osteoporosis drugs or antiepileptics can be a quick way to add missing patients to the appropriate registers.

Check that all patients receiving treatment for dementia are correctly coded by running a search for relevant drugs – this is a particularly valuable register. Similarly patients with new depression can be easily missed so check for codes for depression or low mood. These are symptom codes that won’t put patients onto the register.

At the risk of seeming morbid it is important that you have at least one patient on your palliative care register at the end of the year to ensure payment for the full year’s work. This register can naturally change quite frequently, so you should monitor it very closely in March.

4. Look at your exception reporting

There are likely to be some indicators which will not get full points without exception reporting. This has become a little more flexible than it used to be and it certainly pays to code disease specific invitations on your clinical system. Sadly this change is not yet comprehensive and so some patients may need to be coded as ‘informed dissent’ if they have not responded after two invitations.

Other patients may have been coded as not suitable for medications in the past. With the exception of allergies these codes will normally have to be repeated each year where appropriate. If the patient’s situation has not changed then this should be a relatively easy process at the end of year

5. Don’t forget the Quality Improvement indicators

The QI indicators carry 74 points but don’t appear in QOF dashboards on practice computer systems. This year they are focused on workforce and wellbeing, and optimising efficiency in the use of staff and the reduction of unnecessary appointments.

Workforce and wellbeing require there to be two meetings at PCN level to peer review an improvement plan. It is important that both of these take place before the end of March.

Both areas have reporting templates. These are not long – QOF guidance from NHS England suggests that they should not exceed two sides of A4. Starting to complete this early will show any parts of the process that still need to be completed.

Claiming for these indicators will need a manual entry to CQRS. This is simply a case of going to CQRS and submitting a ‘yes’ against all of the indicators that have been achieved. This must be done before the 31 March – the earlier you do it the better, to avoid it being missed in the busy weeks at the end of the month. There is a large number of points, and potential income at stake.

Dr Gavin Jamie is a GP partner in Swindon. He runs the QOF Database website