The BMA has issued new guidance to General Practitioners on the Freedom of Information Act advising them to be open about data from the Quality and Outcomes Framework (QoF), introduced under the new GMS contract.

Issued by the BMA’s GP Committee says the guidance states that withholding QoF data "could be seen as detrimental to the profession", and advises that practices should be seen to be publicly accountable.

It notes that it is unlikely that Q0F data would be exempt from a requirement to publish, so a managed publication process is being planned with the Department of Health to “remove the present burden of releasing QoF data away from practices”.

“Information will be published annually, most likely in July, by the Primary Care Organisations with the support of the Health and Social Care Information Centre” said the document.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the BMA’s General Practitioners Committee GPC, said that the priority wanted to see QoF data published in a fair and understandable way. "As part of the publication scheme the information on each practice will be put in context so that the figures can be clearly understood and not merely left open to over-simplistic interpretation. GPC negotiators will be involved in the agreement of a national framework to try to ensure this happens.”

Dr Meldrum said that there will be a whole variety of reasons why some practices will achieve higher QoF scores than others, including a high concentration of patients with certain disease types or being a practice with unfilled GP or nurse vacancies. "When these data are published they must be presented in a way that attaches real meaning to the figures, otherwise they will be open to misinterpretation.

The guidance, ‘Freedom of Information Act 2000 – Frequently Asked Questions’, applies to England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Separate guidance for Scotland is being prepared.

Many other aspects of the Freedom of Information Act are covered in the FAQs document including responding to requests for information, exemptions, financial issues and ‘vexatious requests’. It is available on the BMA website at