Referral schemes pose 'perverse incentive risk'

Practices should avoid deals with PCTs that provide specific financial rewards for reducing referrals or costs to certain levels or by agreed amounts, according to GPC guidance.

The guidance says that target-based schemes could result in a perverse incentive to reduce referrals.

However, it also concludes that, when developed in partnership with doctors, referral management schemes can provide benefits to patients by allowing GPs to discuss non-urgent cases with their colleagues.

This can result in patients being offered an alternative course of treatment and practices identifying services they can develop for the benefit of their patients, the guidance adds.

As practices would incur extra costs by taking part in these schemes it is acceptable for them to receive some extra funding.

GPC chairman Dr Laurence Buckman said: 'Properly run referral schemes can improve patient care. They have the potential to reduce pressure on local hospitals, provide patients with a greater say over their care and help them obtain treatment in their local community.

'However, it is not acceptable for these schemes to provide specific financial rewards to GP practices which reduce patient referrals to pre-agreed levels or by certain amounts.'

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