Family doctors are being offered the financial incentives in a bid to slash the number of patients they send to hospital for a variety of procedures.
The incentives mostly cover non-urgent referrals for hip and knee replacements, cataract surgery, hearing tests and abdomen scans. But two health trusts have included urgent cancer scans in their schemes, and another two covered heart tests.
GPs are being paid millions to not refer patients for a variety of important tests including some urgent cancer scans, abdomen scans as well as knee and hip replacement surgeries
Patient groups said the payments were ‘profoundly wrong’, while one MP likened them to ‘bribes’. Doctors’ leaders are also deeply opposed to the schemes, branding them an ‘offensive slur’ on GPs’ medical judgement.
Details of the payments came after figures showed the NHS endured the worst winter crisis in its history, with bed-blocking and waiting times at, or near, record highs. The service is also facing a funding crisis as it struggles to meet the demands of the ageing population and migration.
Reducing the number of patients sent to hospital is one way of cutting costs. Only last month Simon Stevens, the head of NHS England, warned patients to expect longer waits for routine operations so the health service could prioritise cancer care and A&E.
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