GPs offered pay to refer to 'failing' ISTC

GPs have been offered payments to refer patients to an Independent Sector Treatment Centre (ISTC) failing to operate at its expected capacity.

Dr Grenville: Payments to GPs to refer patients to the ISTC were unethical
Dr Grenville: Payments to GPs to refer patients to the ISTC were unethical

Several PCTs across three SHA areas face losing money, having pre-paid for a year's worth of operations at the Trent and South Yorkshire ISTC, at the Barlborough NHS Treatment Centre in Derbyshire.

Derby City PCT admitted to using a ‘package of measures' to boost the number of orthopaedic treatments at the centre, including ‘a financial return to GPs when patients attended'.

A spokesman said: ‘The PCT undertook a number of different actions to try to ensure maximum uptake of the capacity of this service in recognition that under-utilisation would, in effect, mean extra costs to the PCT.'

In some cases, patients' transportation to the centre was paid for. Despite these measures, the PCT maintains ‘patient choice remained the deciding factor for where patients had their treatment'.

Dr John Grenville, secretary of Derbyshire LMC, said the PCT has since backed down from offering GPs payments, but continues to ‘encourage' GPs to refer there.

The LMC told the PCT it believed that payments to GPs to refer to the ISTC, although not illegal, were unethical.

‘Practices instead have agreed to give ‘due prominence' to the ISTC - to tell them all about the wonderful things they do there,' said Dr Grenville.

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