Since January 2006, GPs have been expected to offer patients a choice of at least four hospitals at the point of referral.
Under the Choice and Booking directed enhanced service (DES) in England, practices receive achievement pay if 60 per cent of patients referred recall being offered this choice. The achievement payment is 48p per patient on the practice list, or £2,828 to an average-sized practice with 5,891 patients.
Figures for May and June, published last month (GP 17 November), showed that only 30 per cent of patients recalled being offered choice. Although the latest figures for July do show an increase it is only to 35 per cent.
Similar increases in July’s figures show 32 per cent of patients were aware before they visited their GP that they had a choice of hospitals, compared with 29 per cent in the May/June survey.
Also 55 per cent of patients who were aware of choice recalled being offered choice compared with 51 per cent in the May/June survey.
GPC negotiator Dr Richard Vautrey said that the surveys bore out the GPC’s worst fears about the unfairness of basing GP pay on patient survey results.