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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 September 2006, 10:12 GMT 11:12 UK
GPs 'are providing better care'
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GPs are paid based on their performance
GPs are providing a wider range and higher quality services to patients, performance figures suggest.

The data shows how well doctors scored on things such as appointment times and chronic disease care.

On average, practices achieved 96% of available points compared with 91% last year. One in 10 practices achieved top marks.

Provision of extra services, such as contraception, also improved, earning GPs more bonus payments.

Record payments

This year, each of the 8,000 or more practices that took part will receive about 125,900, equating to a total of over 1 billion - 15% or 170 million more than the government expected.

Last year the payments totalled 630 million.

Practices are getting paid more because GPs and their staff are working harder and smarter
Health Minister Lord Warner

Health Minister Lord Warner said the extra cost was more than justified.

The government has been looking to move services out of hospitals and into the community, with the money following the patients.

Since 2004, GPs have been able to opt in to a voluntary process that awards surgeries points and payments for clinical care, patient experience, how well organised the practice is and what extra services, such as child immunisations, it offers.

GPs' payments are calculated based on how many points they score out of a possible 1,050.

Wider range of services

The more points the practice achieves, and the more services they provide, the more money they earn, although the final sum is also adjusted to take account of their workload and the relative health of patients in their area.

Lord Warner said the payments were more than justified.

"GPs are to be congratulated for delivering high quality services. It is right to reward GPs and their staff for increasing the range and quality of the services they provide.

"Practices are getting paid more because GPs and their staff are working harder and smarter."

He said the GP drive on health promotion, such as smoking cessation services, would save the NHS money in the long term.

GP surgeries are paid according to how many points they score
Points are awarded according to how well the surgery has performed, with 1,050 points up for grabs, out of:
550 for good clinical care
184 for surgeries that are well organised
100 for patient experience
36 for surgeries that provide extra services, such as some jabs

There were big improvements in the clinical care of the 11 disease areas covered by the framework.

Overall, practices achieved 97% of the 550 points available for this compared with 92% in 2004/5.

And 20% achieved the maximum points compared with 7% in 2004/5.

Scores for practice organisation, which included measures of the range of appointment times available, also rose.

The provision of extra services, such as maternity services, improved overall with practices on average achieving 35 (97 per cent) of the available 36 points. The average for the previous year was 34 points.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the British Medical Association's General Practitioners Committee, said: "This is great news for patients.

"This means that more patients than ever before are being diagnosed promptly and getting the treatment they need... and that even more episodes of life-threatening illness will be averted."

Dr Barbara Hakin of NHS Employers said: "We are really encouraged to see a continued improvement this year in the care that patients receive from their GP.

"This data should also help practices to identify how they can continue to improve and tailor the services they provide to their patients locally."

The performance data can be found at http://www.ic.nhs.uk/servicesnew/qof06

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