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Patient choice 'won't add to GP workload'

GPs have cast doubt on a Government-funded study that found offering patients a choice over hospital referrals added just 36 seconds to consultations.

Ministers want all GPs to offer patients a choice of hospital for elective surgery at the point of referral by 2005.

The results of the pilot study by web-based medical publisher Dr Foster, released last week, concluded patient choice was less complicated to implement than feared, but GPs may need more time to 'engage' with the process.

While GPs welcomed the decision to research policy, they voiced scepticism about the 36-seconds claim, as the circumstances may have minimised appointment time.

Dr David Bevan, a GP in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, who helped co-ordinate the study, said: 'GPs didn't recognise the 36-second figure. While they didn't feel choice took enormous amounts of time, they felt it was a bit of an underestimate.'

Professor Mike Pringle, a GP near Newark in Nottinghamshire and a study author, said he had expected 'significant, longer differences'.

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