However, he said that Choose and Book might be easier to drop.
‘There is a greater consensus on Choose and Book because people are fed up with it anyway,' he said, ‘but most people see PBC in a positive light and see it as protecting GP interests in terms of being able to shift resources out of hospitals.
‘So there's a mixed opinion about if that's appropriate, because government would say it will just get someone else to do it, maybe even the private sector which I don't think would be in the interests of GPs.'
Jo Webber, deputy director of policy at the NHS Confederation and a former district nurse, agreed. ‘GPs are not the only people who can do PBC. Nurse-led practices can do it and I think that's quite a driver to focus people's attention on what they want out of PBC - both GPs, PCTs and community providers.'
The DoH is estimating that 2.5 million secondary care referrals a year will be cut out by PBC schemes. It claims ‘evidence from early adopters of PBC shows practices have cut patient referrals for hospital treatment by between 25 and 33 per cent'.