GP practices in Portsmouth are paid to ensure they review referral processes regularly

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DOCTORS in Portsmouth are not paid to cut or increase patient referrals, but are paid to constantly review referral processes.

A lead doctor is reassuring patients that practices carried out in other parts of the country are not happening here.

It comes as a national investigation found that some Clinical Commissioning Groups – which pay for health services locally – pay thousands of pounds to some doctors to cut the number of patients being sent to hospital.

However the Portsmouth Clinical Commissioning Group said that extra money is given to practices who sign up to ensure it reviews its referral process on a regular basis and liaises with other surgeries in order to make sure things are being done correctly.

Dr Jim Hogan, head of the Portsmouth CCG, said: ‘When a GP makes a decision about the treatments or tests a patient may need, that decision is entirely theirs.

‘They should discuss the issue with the patient, and may also choose to seek advice from colleagues, but nobody else is involved.

‘In Portsmouth, there have been a variety of schemes over the years to support GPs over referrals.

‘Currently, the CCG is encouraging GPs to conduct regular reviews within their own practices, so that individual doctors can assess themselves against their colleagues, and also helping groups of practices to come together to compare the way they refer with their peers, and to learn lessons from each other.

‘The intention is to help the GPs themselves to monitor, and drive up, the quality of the service they give to their patients.

‘Each practice may choose whether or not to take part in this scheme, or whether they make their own arrangements for maintaining high standards of referrals.’

Doctor’s magazine Pulse found GP practices are being paid to help local NHS groups limit the number of patient referrals and cut costs.

Appointments affected include scans and consultations with specialists - including those for cancer patients.

The British Medical Association said such incentives were “misguided”.

At least nine CCGs were offering GP practices payments for hitting targets, according to Pulse’s investigation.

In one case, Birmingham South Central CCG was offering practices more than £11,000 to reduce new outpatient attendances, follow-ups, A&E attendances and emergency admissions by one per cent, compared with 2014/15.