A prescribing incentive scheme for non-fundholding general practices: an observational study.

British Medical Journal

PubMedID: 8789984

Bateman DN, Campbell M, Donaldson LJ, Roberts SJ, Smith JM. A prescribing incentive scheme for non-fundholding general practices: an observational study. BMJ. 1996;313(7056):535-8.
OBJECTIVE
To examine the effects of a financial incentive scheme on prescribing in non-fundholding general practices.

DESIGN
Observational study.

SETTING
Non-fundholding general practices in former Northern region in 1993-4.

INTERVENTION
Target savings were set for each group of practices; those that achieved them were paid a portion of the savings.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES
Financial performance; prescribing patterns in major therapeutic groups and some specific therapeutic areas; rates of generic prescribing; and performance against a measure of prescribing quality.

SUBJECTS
459 non-fundholding general practices, grouped into three bands according to the ratio of their indicative prescribing amount to the local average (band A > or = 10% above average, B between average and 10% above, C below average).

RESULTS
102 (23%) of 442 practices achieved their target savings (18%, 19%, and 27% of bands A, B, and C respectively). Band C practices that achieved their target had a lower per capita prescribing frequency for gastrointestinal drugs, inhaled steroids, antidepressants, and hormone replacement therapy. There were no other significant differences in prescribing frequency, and no reduction in the quality of prescribing in achieving practices. Total savings of pounds 1.54 m on indicative prescribing amounts were achieved. Payments from the incentive scheme and discretionary quality awards resulted in pounds 463,000 being returned to practices for investment in primary care.

CONCLUSIONS
The prescribing behaviour of non-fundholding general practitioners responded to financial incentives in a similar way to that of fundholding practitioners. The incentive scheme did not seem to reduce the quality of prescribing.