By Gareth Iacobucci
NHS bosses have been forced to abandon a controversial incentive scheme offering paramedics the chance to win £200 in shopping vouchers if they referred patients to GPs instead of taking them to hospital.
South Central Ambulance Service's GP Triage Reward Scheme was set up to incentivise staff to ‘modernise their working practices', and planned to reward ambulance crew members after their staff identification numbers were drawn in a raffle, but was withdrawn due to safety concerns.
But staff raised fears that the initiative was inappropriate and a potential risk to patient safety, despite the trust's insistence that all decisions would be based on ‘best clinical practice'.
The concerns have prompted the trust to abandon the scheme - which had been running since March 1 across Hampshire – before any winners were selected.
A spokesman for South Central Ambulance Service NHS Trust said: ‘The Trust wanted to do a little more for staff than just say thank you for their hard work and dedication. We decided to introduce the ‘Reward Scheme' as a way of recognising their considerable efforts in modernising their working practices.
‘The scheme was to be based on a raffle principle, to give the staff a chance of winning a "reward" for using best clinical practice. GP triage is inherently safe, because the GP or doctor decides the treatment plan for the patient and makes all the decisions. If in doubt the patient will be taken to hospital.
‘However despite its launch no payments have been made and the scheme has now been withdrawn. We have found that it has increased awareness of alternative referral routes however there have been no inappropriate referrals to GPs as a result of a potential reward.
‘A few staff had raised concerns that it was not appropriate to reward staff with a raffle type "reward". Following staff feedback the reward scheme has been withdrawn.'Ambulance lights