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Solicitors are backing the return of a ban on personal injury firms paying GPs 'cash for referrals' bonuses in order to win new business.

A ballot by the Law Society found 75 per cent of solicitors in favour of reinstating the ban which was lifted in April.

The controversy over 'cash for referrals' broke in September when firms of solicitors promised GPs earnings of up to £10,000 a year if they regularly referred patients who had been involved in accidents.

One firm, Higgins and Co, based in Birkenhead, Merseyside, sent letters to GPs in northern England offering them £175 for each patient they referred and whose claim the firm accepted.

Kent Accident Link also wrote to GPs in the south east offering cash bonuses.

The GMC warned GPs they could face disciplinary action if they signed up.

GPC chair Dr Hamish Meldrum said he was surprised the Law Society had agreed to the practice in the first place. He said: 'Nobody is saying that doctors can't give patients advice if they want to, but we should not be recommending things purely to get £175.'

Paul Higgins, principal at Higgins and Co, said its offer was still open, and the company had had 'expressions of interest' but made no payments so far. He said: 'According to our rules there is nothing wrong with it. If the council introduces a ban I am happy to comply.'

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