Missed choice target to cost practices £3,000

GP practices could lose almost £3,000 on average because less than half of patients recall being offered a choice of hospitals on referral, DoH data show.

From January 2006 GPs have been expected to offer patients a choice of four hospitals at the point of referral.

But a survey of 62,000 patients by pollsters Ipsos Mori for the DoH found that the proportion of patients who recall being offered choice on referral fell to 43 per cent in July 2007 from 44 per cent in May.

Provisional figures for September suggest this figure has climbed to 45 per cent, but this is well below the 60 per cent targets practices must meet to earn an ‘achievement’ payment in the access directed enhanced service for 2007/8. The payment is worth 48p per patients, equivalent to £2,828 for the average practice.

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said many patients had forgotten whether they had been offered choice by the time the survey put the question to them. He added that they remembered the reason for the referral, but not details that were unimportant to them.

‘It’s like asking someone at Easter what they did for Christmas. They might remember opening some presents, but they won’t remember what colour the wrapping paper was,’ he said.

nick.bostock@haymarket.com

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