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GPs buried under trusts' workload dump

'Impossible' June target for Choose & Book is scrapped

The Government has scrapped its target for GPs to refer 25 per cent of patients using Choose and Book by the end of June because it was impossible for most of them to hit it, writes Anna Hodgekiss.

Problems such as a lack of clinics available for GPs to book and the length of time it takes to make a booking have meant even GPs wanting to use Choose and Book have been thwarted.

Practices that signed up to the Choice and Booking directed enhanced service, which set the June target, will now retain the 24p-per-patient aspiration payment until April 2007 at least.

Whether they keep the money, worth around £1,500 to an average practice, will now rest on their use of Choose and Book between September and March 2007.

Achievement payments are on a sliding scale starting at making 50 per cent of referrals via Choose and Book and rising to 90 per cent.

Dr Richard Vautrey, GPC negotiator, said GPs could still have all Choose and Book DES payments clawed back by PCTs if they failed to reach the 50 per cent threshold. The exact amount was 'at the discretion of PCTs'.

Dr Vautrey added: 'This was an issue where many practices were trying to achieve a particular target, but couldn't for various reasons.

'I would hope and expect that these local problems will now be resolved to help practices achieve their end-of-year targets.'

GPs welcomed the scrapping of the June target, but said there was a long way to go before Choose and Book could be used for 90 per cent of referrals.

Dr Nick Brown, a GP in Chippenham, Wiltshire, said his practice would have reached the 25 per cent target, but was unlikely to achieve higher levels. He said: 'Choose and Book is fine for simple referrals, but if you have a complex condition or long medical history, it's impossible.

'There is no way of asking for advice or attaching documents such as pathology reports.'

Dr Andrew Langton, a GP in Bristol, said GPs still had to 'get on the learning curve' with Choose and Book. 'I would also urge LMCs to stop saying it doesn't work, when it does, and start asking how it will be funded and supported in the long-term.'

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