Official figures show a rapid rise in GPs being given the option to refer named consultant teams using Choose and Book, as hospitals scramble to prepare for the official Government deadline of April 2012.
Department of Health figures reveal the proportion of Choose and Book referrals giving the option of referring to named consultant teams have risen from 40% in December 2010 to 80% in December 2011.
In December 2011, there were around 253,000 referrals made through Choose and Book to services where there was at least one named clinician available on the system, compared with 143,000 in December 2010 – a 77% rise.
GPs said the figures demonstrated pressure was being put on hospitals ahead of the Government's commitment that GPs will be able to refer to named consultant-led teams from this April.
Dr Stephen Miller, medical director for Choose and Book and a GP in London, told Pulse: ‘Hospitals have sometimes made it difficult to refer to named consultants using Choose and Book, because they weren't putting the names of consultants into the service. As part of the preparation for the Government's policy that comes in this April, there has been pressure put on hospitals to add consultants to their services on Choose and Book.
‘There has been a change in mindset. The hospitals are now putting the names of consultants there so that if GPs and their patients want to book to a named consultant, then they can.'
The news comes as PCTs sought to boost faltering Choose and Book uptake rates. Board papers from NHS Peterborough showed that as of November, just 22% of first outpatient referrals went through Choose and Book.
NHS Cambridgeshire, where the PCT only pays practices for a Choose and Book LES if 90% of referrals are directed via the service, said an overall rate of 67% of outpatient referrals were going via Choose and Book.