Family doctors are being encouraged with financial bonuses to reduce the number of patients referred on for treatment in hospitals.
The financial incentives are being offered to GPs as part of cost-saving measures to keep down the financial burden of hospital care under the NHS. They have been heavily criticised by doctors’ leaders as a “dereliction of duty”. They say that cash inducements to keep an increased number of patients off the wards has no place in consulting rooms.
Data was collected and analysed by Pulse, the magazine for doctors. It found that from 181 of the GP-led groups that are responsible for local health services, a significant proportion were signed up to the scheme to a lesser or greater degree.
Eleven have linked funding to targets to cut referrals and five have entered into “profit-sharing” schemes for the purpose. NHS Coastal West and Sussex clinical commissioning group said they would offer doctors 50 per cent of savings for reduced operations from last year. CCGs told the magazine that the schemes were intended to improve “referral quality” and that the money would be ring-fenced for local patient care.
Peter Swinyard, of the Family Doctor Association, described the schemes as “bizarre”. He said: “From a patient point of view, it means GPS are being paid to not look after them.”