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'Use Choose and Book or we'll send back referrals'

A PCT has threatened GPs that it will return all of their referrals unless they submit them via Choose and Book, writes Helen Crump.

Salford PCT has told practices it will start implementing the policy from 1 October as part of efforts to improve uptake of the system in the area.

The move has infuriated GPs, who say that returning referrals could have massive implications for patient care and the potential to cause a 'catastrophe'.

To compound the problem, Bolton, Salford and Trafford Mental Health Trust, whose services are commissioned by the PCT, has also insisted all referrals not submitted on a specific form will be returned.

Salford and Trafford LMC criticised the PCT for attempting to amend the Choose and Book directed enhanced service when it should have negotiated a locally enhanced service with GPs.

Dr Ravi Mene, secretary of Salford and Trafford LMC, said the trust's approach was 'cavalier'.

'That puts GPs in a very precarious situation because a doctor's responsibility is to care for the patient,' he said.

'These people are running their own agenda without consultation with GPs and users of the service.

'One reason could be that the PCT has targets to reach and to make Choose and Book successful and make it look good and compel doctors they may have added it on.'

Dr Niall Finegan, a Salford GP and PCT professional executive committee member, said

he also felt pressure on the PCT to hit targets was behind the move.

'I think the Department of Health is pressuring it so that politically they can say Choose and Book is a success,' he said.

Dr Laurence Buckman, GPC deputy chair, said GPs should resist any such moves. Patients whose referrals were returned might be able to take legal action against the PCT, he added.

'I don't think the health

authority can interfere with a referral if it's made properly.

'You can't force someone to use Choose and Book.'

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