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What drives general practitioners in the UK to improve the quality of care? A systematic literature review
  1. Kanwal Ahmed1,
  2. Salma Hashim1,
  3. Mariyam Khankhara1,
  4. Ilhan Said1,
  5. Amrita Tara Shandakumar2,
  6. Sadia Zaman1,
  7. Andre Veiga3
  1. 1School of Medicine, Imperial College London, London, London, UK
  2. 2School of Medicine, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, Merseyside, UK
  3. 3Business School, Imperial College London, London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Miss Ilhan Said; is2015{at}


Background In the UK, the National Health Service has various incentivisation schemes in place to improve the provision of high-quality care. The Quality Outcomes Framework (QOF) and other Pay for Performance (P4P) schemes are incentive frameworks that focus on meeting predetermined clinical outcomes. However, the ability of these schemes to meet their aims is debated.

Objectives (1) To explore current incentive schemes available in general practice in the UK, their impact and effectiveness in improving quality of care and (2) To identify other types of incentives discussed in the literature.

Methods This systematic literature review was conducted using the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines. Six databases were searched: Cochrane, PubMed, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence Evidence, Health Management Information Consortium, Embase and Health Management. Articles were screened according to the selection criteria, evaluated against critical appraisal checklists and categorised into themes.

Results 35 articles were included from an initial search result of 22087. Articles were categorised into the following three overarching themes: financial incentives, non-financial incentives and competition.

Discussion The majority of the literature focused on QOF. Its positive effects included reduced mortality rates, better data recording and improved sociodemographic inequalities. However, limitations involved decreased quality of care in non-incentivised activities, poor patient experiences due to tick-box exercises and increased pressure to meet non-specific targets. Findings surrounding competition were mixed, with limited evidence found on the use of non-financial incentives in primary care.

Conclusion Current research looks extensively into financial incentives, however, we propose more research into the effects of intrinsic motivation alongside existing P4P schemes to enhance motivation and improve quality of care.

  • financial incentives
  • pay for performance
  • general practice
  • quality improvement
  • primary care

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  • Contributors KA, SH, MK, IS, ATS and SZ contributed equally to the design, implementation, analysis of results and writing of the manuscript. AV advised and supervised the undertaking of this research project.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement All data relevant to the study are included in the article.