GPs paid to reduce hospital referrals

A scheme which pays bonuses to GPs for not referring patients to hospital was branded "absolutely ridiculous" by a patient group today.

The policy introduced by Oxfordshire Primary Care Trust (PCT) will see average-sized doctors' practices earning up to £20,000 for reviewing and reducing their referral rate.

If doctors hit their targets then the PCT will be left with a bill of £1.2 million. But they believe the expense is justified because the increasing amount of patients being sent to hospital is estimated to cost £6 million.

The annual number of patients referred to Oxford Radcliffe Hospital NHS Trust and Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre NHS Trust is up by 8%.

Surgeries with 10,000 patients will receive £10,000 to look at their referral procedures, and up to £10,000 more for reducing their rates.

Sue Woollacott, chairman of the Patient Support Group at Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre, said: "I think it's absolutely ridiculous. It seems to imply that GPs aren't presently making good judgments and need financial incentives in order to do that.

"If I were a GP and getting payments for the practice it would seem like some sort of bribe to me.

"To delay patients, who are often elderly, who need good orthopaedic care, and to delay them from getting necessary care can often complicate the procedures that they then eventually have to have."

A spokeswoman for Oxfordshire PCT said: "We have got significantly increasing rates of referral into secondary care providers.

"We're not sure why, so we're trying to understand why.

"We're asking them to look at the referrals they're making. That will take clinical time to do that. We're offering to pay for the time it will take them to review the referrals they're doing."

She added that surgeries would receive a further bonus if they then cut their referral rates: "They have all been set targets based on what they've done on previous years.

"What they're being asked to do is look at the referrals they're making. It's a case of them looking at each one and making sure that is the place for them to be referred to.

"The payment is for the time it takes to do the review and a bonus if they manage to bring the referral rates down."

A spokeswoman for the British Medical Association said: "Referral schemes can in many cases enhance patient care by introducing procedures whereby individual GPs can discuss non-urgent referrals with their colleagues.

"When implemented properly, they allow doctors to share knowledge and find better ways to treat their patients by, for example, referring a patient to a GP who specialises in a particular condition or to a local service that provides care on manageable conditions such as diabetes.

"This can help a patient receive efficient, close by care in their community and has the potential to reduce pressure on hospital services.

"It is important that referral schemes are introduced only after full consultation with local clinicians and that they have clear, transparent guidelines of operation.

"Schemes that include targets based on reducing referral rates should be avoided as GPs should make referral decisions based on clinical factors."

Eighty out of 82 Oxfordshire practices have signed up to the scheme, which was introduced on October 1.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: In House Counsel - Contracts

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading supplier of compliance software a...

    Recruitment Genius: Associate System Engineer

    £24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Associate System Engineer r...

    Recruitment Genius: Executive Assistant

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Executive Assistant is required to join a l...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

    £45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
    How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
    11 best bedside tables

    11 best bedside tables

    It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her