Family GPs are ordered to cut number of patients referred to hospital to earn extra cashControversial scheme can pay out almost 9,000 a year to surgeriesFears patients are having to bear the brunt of NHS 'efficiency savings'

|

UPDATED:

07:12 GMT, 2 May 2012

Family doctors are being ordered to slash the numbers of patients they send to hospital to earn extra cash.

Six out of ten GPs said they face ‘inappropriate’ pressure to refer fewer patients and potentially deny them the best care.

The controversial scheme can pay out almost 9,000 a year to surgeries.

GPs could get extra cash for not sending patients to hospitals for treatment (posed by models)

Chief executive of the Patients Association Katherine Murphy

GPs could get extra cash for not sending patients to hospitals for treatment (posed by models) which has concerned Patients Association chief executive Katherine Murphy (pictured right)

It started last May when ministers brought in a series of targets enabling GPs to be rewarded for cutting the number of patients sent to hospital specialists or A&E departments.

However, a poll of 667 doctors found that 60 per cent were facing ‘inappropriate demands’ from managers.

The NHS has been told to save 20billion over the next three years, leaving health trust managers looking for ways to cut costs.

Primary care trusts are charged for each of their patients who is treated in hospital.

One doctor in the survey carried out by GP Newspaper said the scheme was a ‘huge waste of time’ and ‘meaningless Government box-ticking’.

Another admitted: ‘If patients knew how much external pressure we were under to keep them out of hospital, they would mistrust our motives.’

And one said he was so dismayed by the system that it was the main reason he had decided to retire.

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: ‘Once again, it is patients who are having to bear the brunt of supposed “efficiency savings” in the NHS.

‘Trusts and the Department of Health cannot continue to pretend that it is business as usual while patients suffer.’

The scheme is part of the controversial Quality and Outcomes Framework target system, whereby practices earn points which are converted into cash.

They get 68.5 points if they promise to ‘review’ the numbers of patients referred to hospital.

Each point is worth 130.51p, so a practice can earn up to 8,939 a year, which can be ploughed back into running costs or staff pay.