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Choose and Book battle lines drawn

By Steve Nowottny

The GPC is advising GPs to drop Choose and Book if they are not being paid for it, even if hospitals refuse to accept paper referrals instead.

It recommends reverting to traditional paper referrals. Hospitals in a handful of PCTs, including Milton Keynes and Bedford, are now operating a mandatory Choose and Book referral policy, and rejecting paper referrals.

A spokesperson for Milton Keynes PCT said there were no plans to review this policy, despite the expiry of the Choice and Booking DES at the end of March.

'Local doctors knew this was a one-year situation, so it's not as if they're losing any money because there was never going to be any money beyond that,' said the spokesperson.

Dr Paul Cundy, chair of the GPC IT subcommittee, said PCTs had 'no legal basis' to insist on electronic referrals.

'If the PCT wants to refuse a referral on the basis that it's a piece of paper rather than a scanned document that will then be printed out on to a piece of paper, then I'd be very happy for them to defend themselves in court,' he said.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said use of Choose and Book was a matter for 'local determination'.

'Hospital trusts can seek to encourage preferred routes but need to ensure that patient care is paramount,' she said.

Dr Sian Whyte, a GP in Milton Keynes and member of Buckinghamshire LMC, said GPs in the area would discuss dropping Choose and Book. 'Using Choose and Book is not in our contract,' she said. 'With the DES gone, we're not under any obligation to do it.'

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