No place for cash incentives to reduce referrals in the NHS, says College

Publication date: 28 February 2018

Responding to a report in Pulse on GP practices being offered financial incentives to reduce referrals to secondary care, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said:

"It's high time for commissioners to appreciate that GPs are highly-trained medical professionals, who know our patients, and will act in the best interests of their health and wellbeing.

"We are well aware of the financial strains currently facing the NHS - nowhere is feeling that more acutely than general practice - but GPs will only ever make the decision to refer a patient to secondary care on the basis of a consultation with that patient, taking into account their individual circumstances, and if we consider it necessary to achieve the best health outcome for them.

"Of course, it's important to take measures to ensure that GP referrals are appropriate and high-quality, but payments to reduce referrals would fly in the face of this, and erode the trust our patients have in us to do what is best for them and their health.

"Reviewing referrals is an important part of general practice, and a constructive part of professional development for GPs, but it must be proportionate, safe, and put the patient at the heart of the decision. Our report, launched earlier this week, highlighted that GPs need support to ensure that referrals are appropriate – not ethically-questionable initiatives that prioritise cost-savings over patient care.

"Cash incentives based on how many referrals GPs make have no place in the NHS, and frankly, it is insulting to suggest otherwise."

Further Information

RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7633/7574/7575
Out of hours: 0203 188 7659

Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 52,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.

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