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GPs' incentives for private hospital referrals must stop, says Competition Commission

GPs are being offered incentives to refer to private hospitals in a practice that the Competition Commission said was unlikely to be in the best interests of patients.

The commission found examples of private hospital providers offering GPs cash incentives and schemes which included free consulting rooms or receptionist services in return for making referrals to the private hospital.

The allegations come in the provisional findings from the commission’s report into private healthcare, which was published on Monday,

The GPC agreed such schemes ‘shouldn’t happen’, but said they were ‘extremely rare’.

The report said: ‘They promote themselves to consultants (or GPs) in communications or at events, where they describe the quality of their staff and the facilities and equipment that they have invested in.

‘They commonly offer access to resources to make using their facilities more convenient for a clinician, for example, making consulting rooms or secretarial services available. They may also operate schemes which provide financial benefits to consultants using their facilities.’

The commission’s chairman Mr Roger Witcomb said he struggled to believe these schemes were in the best interest of patients.

He said: ‘We’ve also seen the existence of a range of incentives which encourage medical professionals to choose facilities on grounds other than price and quality—and we struggle to believe these can be in the interests of patients.’

But GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey, said such schemes were ‘extremely rare and unusual’ and added they were not something the GPC would support.

He said: ‘It’s not something I’ve ever heard of or seen any evidence of. If it happens it must be extremely rare and unusual. Obviously this is something that shouldn’t happen.’


Readers' comments (6)

  • I wonder how many of the patients referred into these services were told what was in it for their GP when the practice advised them where to be seen?

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  • What is more unacceptable is that i refer lots of private patients and have never heard of these backhanders. Don't think I would accept them but feel left out that i have never been offered them!

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  • I have been a GP for 20 years- worked in 3 separate areas of the UK and have never been offered any referral incentive by any private company. The report says the happens 'commonly' - it would be nice to see their data. Looks a bit like Mailesque Dr bashing to me.

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  • Agreed - this seems like nonsense. I have also never come across this, and that's working in 5 different areas over more than a decade in GP. How would we make use of rooms or secretarial services anyway?

    The most I have ever received is a thank you note and a box of chocolates from a private Consultant at Christmas - never anything from the hospital or clinic concerned.

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  • Azeem Majeed

    No evidence is presented on how common this practice is. Where I work in London, many of my patients make use of their private health insurance. We refer these patients to several private hospitals but none of these hospitals have ever offered our practice an incentive.

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  • This article could explain a lot. I have unusual conditions such as polio; Consultants have got fed up with NHS and gone 'private'. I know my GP isn't happy with this, and tried to say I could consult him privately, but I see no reason to change.
    but things have gone from bad to worse, and now I have no confidence in GP as he tries to change whatever medication I am prescribed. Trust has gone out the window - although practice website makes big play of fact that patients can consult GP for private consultation.

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