FOI challenge on QoF data
The owner of an online information service is challenging a decision to hold back publication of Quality and Outcomes Framework (QoF) data until August.
Gordon Blackwell, owner of the National Health Intelligence Service told EHI Primary Care: “I don’t think they have any right to deny me access to that information. Section 22 of the Freedom of Information Act applies when there is some reason for delaying publication but I don’t think there is any in this case.”
The Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) announced last week that publication of QoF data for England, including detailed results for every practice, would not be available until August.
Earlier last week EHI Primary Care reported that the HSCIC’s information governance consultant Stuart Lynch had told Dr Gavin Jamie, a GP in Wiltshire, that the information would be available in early June. However the HSCIC has decided to review its deadline to August to give time for all potential disputes between PCTs and practices to be settled and payments to be made.
Blackwell has been trying to gather QoF data at practice level from all primary care organisations.
He says he has complete data from 13 primary care trusts but PCTs are increasingly referring Blackwell to the HSCIC and refusing to release the data citing section 22 of the Freedom of Information Act which says that data does not need to be released if it is to be published elsewhere at a later date.
He intends to raise the issue with the Department of Constitutional Affairs, the department with over-arching responsibility for the law on freedom of information.
Subscribers to Blackwell’s website can already view results by practice from the 13 PCTs which have already supplied their QoF results, showing overall scores and scores in each of the domains.
Much more detailed information, including scores for each clinical indicator and numbers on each disease register, are likely to be available when the HSCIC publishes the data held on the Quality, Prevalence and Indicator Database (QPID), a database which will hold all QoF data extracted from the QMAS payments system. Dr Jamie also plans to publish the detailed information for each practice and present the data in a format that will help practices to compare their performance.
Information about what the HSCIC hopes to include was put on its site after EHI Primary Care highlighted the plans to publish QoF data for each individual practice last week.
The site says the precise format and content of QoF tables is still being discussed with the Department of Health and other key stakeholders and its publication plan will be submitted for approval to the Information Commissioner in June.
It adds:“The tables are likely to include for each general practice: numerators, denominators and unadjusted QOF points for each of the clinical indicators, and disease areas, responses to the ''yes or ''no'' non-clinical indicators and unadjusted QOF points for the non-clinical indicators and domains, information about disease prevalence.”
The site says it has already been agreed that the HSCIC will supply PCTs with annual practice-level summaries of QoF data with space for PCTs to add textual commentary. These final reports, including the textual commentary, will also be considered for publication.
A spokeswoman for the Welsh Assembly Government told EHI Primary Care this week that the Assembly hoped to publish the Welsh average for prevalence some time this week. She added: “We are considering publishing practice prevalence at a later date with achievement points and achievement payments but this will only be after all contractual disputes are resolved.”
Northern Ireland is due to publish some QoF data on Wednesday and Scotland will be publishing practice by practice results at the end of May.
In the meantime the British Medical Association’s General Practitioner Committee says it is finalising guidance for practices and local medical committees on how to handle requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act and plans to release it very soon.