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Hospital uploads paper referrals to hit Choose and Book targets

By Steve Nowottny

Exclusive: NHS managers have been employing staff to manually upload paper referrals to artificially boost performance against Choose and Book targets, Pulse can reveal.

Staff at Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust have been busy turning paper forms into electronic bookings, in one of the most bizarre examples yet of how far trusts will go to hit Government targets.

A report to the board of NHS Cornwall and Isles of Scilly admits: ‘Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust has been uploading paper referrals to the Choose and Book system to improve performance.'

Peter Knibbs, chair of Cornwall and Isles of Scilly professional executive committee, told Pulse: ‘There was still a small number of paper referrals going through directly to Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust and we wanted, through their booking team, to make sure they got uploaded to the Choose and Book system as quickly as possible.'

The policy was helping the trust close in on its target of 90% of first outpatient referrals going through Choose and Book, he said. ‘We're up at 84% for 1 March. Every little percentage point matters.'

But Dr Stephen Miller, Choose and Book medical director and a GP in Lambeth, southeast London, said he was alarmed at the revelation and questioned how hospital staff had been able to initiate Choose and Book referrals.

‘The performance would be improved if GPs all used the same system and sent them through the proper way rather than using a workaround. It doesn't seem right that people in an acute trust are supposed to be acting on behalf of a GP. If that was happening I wouldn't want to be a GP in that area.'

A spokesperson for NHS Cornwall and Isles of Scilly said: ‘The process established ensures that all patients are treated consistently with all referrals reviewed in 48 hours.'

Managers at an NHS hospital trust have been manually entering paper referrals to boost its choose and book performance

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