Exception reporting in the quality and outcomes framework: Views of practice staff - A qualitative study

Stephen Campbell, Kerin Hannon, Helen Lester

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Background Exception reporting allows practices to exclude eligible patients from indicators or an entire clinical domain of the Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF). It is a source of contention, viewed by some as a ‘gaming’ mechanism. Aim: To explore GP and practice staff views and experiences of exception reporting in the QOF. Design of study Qualitative semi-structured interviews. Setting Interviews with 24 GPs, 20 practice managers, 13 practice nurses, and nine other staff were conducted in 27 general practices in the UK. Method Semi-structured interviews, analysed using open explorative thematic coding. Results Exception reporting was seen as a clinically necessary part of the QOF. Exempting patients, particularly for discretionary reasons, was seen as an ‘exception to the rule’ that was justified either in terms of practising patient-centred care within a framework of population-based health measures or because of the poor face validity of the indicators. Rates in all practices were described as minimal and the threat of external scrutiny from primary care trusts kept rates low. However, GPs were happy to defend using discretionary exception codes for individual patients. Exception reporting was used, particularly at the end of the payment year, to meet unmet targets and to prevent the practice being penalised financially. Overt gaming was seen as something done by ‘other’ practices. Only two GPs admitted to occasional inappropriate exception reporting. Conclusion Exception reporting is seen by most GPs and practice staff as an important and defensible safeguard against inappropriate treatment or over-treatment of patients. However, a minority of practitioners also saw it as a gaming mechanism
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183-189
Number of pages7
JournalBritish Journal of General Practice
Issue number585
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


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