By Ian Quinn
A controversial referral gateway has sparked the first public row between grassroots GPs and one of the new breed of GP consortia, in what some are warning could be the shape of things to come.
The tensions emerged as a senior GP warned consortia needed to try harder to engage all their constituent practices, including single-handers and those regarded as ‘difficult'.
In Oldham, the PCT wrote to practices saying it would divert funding from its Choose and Book LES to a new gateway designed to triage all GP referrals and run by the Primary Care Oldham limited liability partnership.
But one GP, who asked not to be named, said the move had provoked tensions: ‘The letter stated the scheme had been extensively discussed at our local commissioning group and had agreement in principle from the LMC. But this was the first most GPs not involved had ever heard of it. How can a clinician who has never met a patient reject a referral made by a fellow competent GP?'
Shauna Dixon, chief executive of NHS Oldham, confirmed funding from Choose and Book had been diverted but said the move could save the PCT £3m.
Dr Ian Wilkinson, a member of the Primary Care Oldham partnership and a GP in Oldham, said: ‘There was a full consultation with the LMC, as the representative of local practices. There's a huge difference in quality of referral from GPs in Oldham. Work is being done to reduce that.'
Dr Mohammad Salahuddin, a GP in Birkenhead and former chair of Wirral LMC, asked: ‘How will consortia engage with practices? In the past, very little chance has been given to difficult and small practices.'Funding from the Choose and Book LES has been diverted to a new triage gateway Survey
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