GPs being offered cash to keep people off hospital books
FAMILY doctors are being paid thousands of pounds to avoid putting their patients — including cancer sufferers — into hospitals, a shocking study revealed yesterday.
GP practices which choose not to send patients to specialists or for scans and operations are being given large financial rewards under new targets to cut referrals.
The targets include first appointments for cancer, which should occur within two weeks of a GP suspecting the disease, research from Pulse Magazine found.
Rewards are being offered by local Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) — the GP-led NHS bodies responsible for “buying” services in their area and set up under the Tories’ Health and Social Care Act.
But health campaigners and doctors are warning the perverse “incentives” are putting lives at risk and undermining doctor-patient relationships.
Health Emergency director John Lister said the rewards “completely fail” to comply with the ethics of the medical profession — “first do no harm.”
He said: “There’s obviously a big problem with late diagnosis of cancer so these financial rewards are coming at the expense of patients’ lives.”
Mr Lister is currently compiling a “long list of reprehensible policies” being carried out by CCGs up and down the country.
“This one will rate fairly highly on the list,” he added.
Pulse said at least nine CCGs — covering hundreds of thousands of patients — were offering the financial rewards.
General Medical Council guidance says doctors must not accept any “inducement, gift or hospitality” that interferes with the way they treat or refer patients.
However former Royal College of GPs chairwoman and Lambeth GP Professor Clare Gerada said such schemes risk “interfering with the doctor-patient relationship.”
And Lambeth GP Emma Rowley-Conwy said the targets were “counter to other initiatives that encourage GPs to refer earlier for suspected cancers.”
The British Medical Association’s Dr Richard Vautrey said it had “always opposed schemes that pay GPs not to refer patients as they may undermine patients’ confidence and trust that GPs will always do the right thing.”
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