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Study reveals GPs are being incentivised to reduce number of hospital referrals

An article recently published by GP targeted Pulse magazine, revealed that the NHS bodies responsible for overseeing GP practice budgets were giving financial incentives to encourage a reduction in the number of patients referred to hospital for further investigations or treatment.

The worrying news identified that Clinical Commission Groups (CCG’s) in nine different parts of the country were implementing the initiative against a backdrop of significant NHS budget cuts and worrying statistics on early cancer diagnosis.

The rationale behind this surprising, and arguably unethical, practise appears to be an attempt to cut waste at hospitals by reducing the number of unnecessary scans and outpatient appointments but begs the question of whether this will only serve to hinder appropriate, and timely, patient care?

Pulse highlighted two examples of where such bonuses were being offered to reduce the number of hospital referrals:

North-East Lincolnshire CCG is offering payments of around £6,000 to GPs who reduce the number of outpatient referrals to the same level as practices with a record for the lowest hospital referral rates in 2014/15.

NHS Birmingham South Central CCG offers the average surgery a payment that would equate to in excess of £11,000 to reduce new outpatient attendances, follow-ups, A&E attendances and emergency admissions by 1%.

Cancer Research UK and the National Institute for Health recently revealed figures showing that the surgeries who most frequently referred patients onto hospital under the two week hospital referral system for suspected cancer had 7% less patient deaths as a result.

Time is of the essence for many serious conditions, including cancer, where early diagnosis and treatment can make the vital difference between life or death. There are very few medical conditions where a delay in treatment is helpful.

The UK already has the worst cancer survival rate in Western Europe, mostly due to late diagnosis. The clinical director for cancer at NHS England was quoted as saying that it aimed to appropriately increase the number of suspected cancer patient hospital referrals to ensure patients have more of a chance of an early diagnosis and subsequently, an improved survival rate.

As patient care continues to be increasingly lost amongst budget cuts, overstretched NHS services and now financial incentives to limit hospital referrals, it is difficult to see where the future of patient care lies.

If you, or someone you know, has suffered a significant injury due to a delayed diagnosis or hospital referral, you may have a claim for compensation. Linder Myers Solicitors has one of the largest and most experienced team of specialist clinical and medical negligence lawyers in England and Wales. Our team of experts are readily available to listen to and discuss incidents of negligence.

If you, or someone you know, has been injured due to the negligence of a medical professional, including hospital staff, GPs or pharmacists, contact a member of our team on 0800 085 3295. Alternatively, please email a summary of your potential claim and contact details to


Find out more about our Medical Negligence department Download our step by step guide to pursuing a medical negligence claim guide


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