The government is considering holding back part of hospital trusts' annual tariff uplift if they fail to meet quality standards in their quality accounts, a spokesperson for the Deparment of Health has confirmed to PharmaTimes UK News.

Quality accounts were first introduced by Lord Ara Darzi in his report on the NHS High Quality Care for All, published last summer, as a mechanism for keeping a check on the quality of service provision across the whole health service.

They are designed to assess the safety, experience and outcomes of all healthcare services, and should help patients and carers make better informed choices. It is thought that the majority of each account will be determined locally so that healthcare providers are able to publish information against the strategic priorities identified for improvement, but there will also be a core of nationally consistent information included.

Now the government has revealed that it is considering incentivising hospital trusts to ensure they hit quality goals by holding back a portion of the tariff uplift - which is based on the net cost pressures faced by NHS providersr - if they fail to do so, to help drive improvements and better healthcare.

According to Pulse, the principle could also be applied to general practice. It claims that primary care trusts will be able to withhold pay from GPs if they fail to demonstrate services quality. But the DH spokesperson told PharmaTimes UK News that the government is "a long way off" looking at primary care, and stressed that the scheme is "not about docking pay".

"As and when primary care providers, including GPs, dentists and some optometrists, are required to register with the Care Quality Commission, they will be brought into the Quality Accounts regimen by way of further regulations. Depending upon the outcome of this work on registration, it might therefore be possible for these groups of providers to be ready to produce Quality Accounts in 2012," the spokesperson said.