GPs are being paid to slash the number of patients they send to hospital, an investigation has found.
At least 11 clinical commissioning groups are offering doctors cash incentives if they reduce referrals for routine procedures.
They include heart operations, checks for prostate cancer, hip and knee replacements and children’s ear, nose and throat surgery.
Health leaders have branded the bonuses as ‘unsafe’ and a ‘dereliction of duty’ and say they have no place in the consulting room.
Barnsley Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) in South Yorkshire offers surgeries an average of £35,000 if they slash referrals by 10 per cent.
It is up to the family doctors in charge how this money is spent and they may put it towards their salaries or extra staff. GPs in Coastal West Sussex CCG receive 50 per cent of the money saved by the NHS by slashing several types of referrals.
The bonus schemes were uncovered by Pulse magazine through Freedom of Information requests to all 207 CCGs in England.
They have been introduced to try to save money. A CCG has to cover the cost every time a patient from within its area is referred for a test or operation at hospital. CCGs face strict savings targets set by NHS England.
Other CCGs offering financial incentives include Rotherham, West Leicester, the Vale of York, Enfield in North London, Wolverhampton, Erewash in Derbyshire, and three in Worcestershire – South Worcestershire, Redditch and Bromsgrove and Wyre Forest.