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Ann Fam Med. 2008 May-Jun;6(3):228-34. doi: 10.1370/afm.844.

The experience of pay for performance in English family practice: a qualitative study.

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National Primary Care Research and Development Centre, the University of Manchester, Manchester, UK.



We conducted an in-depth exploration of family physicians' and nurses' beliefs and concerns about changes to the family health care service as a result of the new pay-for-performance scheme in the United Kingdom (Quality and Outcomes Framework [QOF]).


Using a semistructured interview format, we interviewed 21 family doctors and 20 nurses in 22 nationally representative practices across England between February and August 2007.


Participants believed the financial incentives had been sufficient to change behavior and to achieve targets. The findings suggest that it is not necessary to align targets to professional priorities and values to obtain behavior change, although doing so enhances enthusiasm and understanding. Participants agreed that the aims of the pay-for-performance scheme had been met in terms of improvements in disease-specific processes of patient care and physician income, as well as improved data capture. It also led to unintended effects, such as the emergence of a dual QOF-patient agenda within consultations, potential deskilling of doctors as a result of the enhanced role for nurses in managing long-term conditions, a decline in personal/relational continuity of care between doctors and patients, resentment by team members not benefiting financially from payments, and concerns about an ongoing culture of performance monitoring in the United Kingdom.


The QOF scheme may have achieved its declared objectives of improving disease-specific processes of patient care through the achievement of clinical and organizational targets and increased physician income, but our findings suggest that it has changed the dynamic between doctors and nurses and the nature of the practitioner-patient consultation.

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