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GPs revolt over choice

Thousands of GPs plan to snub the Government's demand that they offer patients needing a referral a choice of at least four hospitals.

A Pulse snapshot survey reveals widespread dissatisfaction among GPs at the choice initiative, which came into force amid a fanfare of publicity on January 1.

GPs said they had always offered 'clinically appropriate' options over treatment and accused ministers of wasting time and money by forcing them to offer patients choice from a pre-set list of hospitals.

Running through the options could double consultation times and take up more

practice staff resource, GPs said.

Several of the 30 GPs questioned by Pulse said the large distances patients would need to travel to some of the hospitals on their area's list rendered the options meaningless.

Most GPs said they would not change their referral practice.

Dr Robert Morley, joint executive secretary of Birmingham LMC, said offering choice for the sake of it would not help

patients.

He said: 'Choice which is not clinically appropriate or choice which is illusory because there is no genuine choice of provider is not in the best interests of patients.'

Dr Paul Roblin, chair of Thames Valley LMCs, said some patients in the region would face a 50-mile journey if they chose anything other than the local hospital.

He has e-mailed practices to remind them they are under no contractual obligation to offer choice and advised them to be 'cautious' over PCT requests that they guarantee they will

do so.

'I advised them not to sign any such piece of paper,' he said.

Dr David Bevan, a GP in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, said ministers were deluded if they belived offering choice carried no resource implications.

He said: 'We are planning to offer choice only in as much as we already do as part of good practice.'

A new directed enhanced service will pay GPs up to £1 per patient for offering choice as part of Choose and Book.

icameron@cmpinformation.com

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