GPs could receive about £6,000 per practice by the end of June this year if their primary care trust meets the Department of Health’s targets for Choose and Book, according to implementation details.

Strategic health authority chief executives have been sent more details of the £95 million package which was announced by health secretary John Reid last month on the same day a National Audit Office report revealed that the electronic booking system was behind schedule partly because of a failure to engage GPs.

A health department spokesman told EHI Primary Care that the £95 million package will be available to PCTs in three stages.

The first payment to PCTs, a total of about £6,000 per practice, will be paid to trusts if three criteria are met by the end of June. These are that 30 per cent of GPs are registered for Choose and Book, that local commissioning rules have been agreed to enable GPs to offer patients a choice of four or five providers and that information about all those providers has been loaded onto the Directory of Services.

The second payment, which is available until the end of October 2005, will be a capital lump sum of £100,000 to PCTs where GPs are using Choose and Book for 50 per cent of referrals.

The criteria for the third stage is that PCTs are using the system for 90 per cent of referrals during 2006. No payment has been specified for the third stage but enough money would be left to allow another £50,000 payment to PCTs assuming all the rest of the money was claimed.

The money is non-recurring and PCTs will be free to decide how the capital funding is spent and to develop their own incentive schemes to encourage GPs to use the Choose and Book system.

The health department spokesman said: "It’s one off capital funding and it’s up to PCTs what they spend the money on."

A spokeswoman for the BMA told EHI Primary Care that GPs and consultants still had major reservations about Choose and Book.

She added: "We haven’t been consulted about the distribution of this money and how this could work best. Money alone isn’t going to fix this problem and the concerns GPs and consultants have over Choose and Book are a long way from being sorted."

Dr Mike Dixon, chairman of the NHS Alliance and a GP in Cullompton, Devon, said he believed many of the problems over Choose and Book were down to bad communications.

He added: "The Choose and Book team are quite flexible about how the booking is done and what are big concerns to GPs don’t seem to be problems to them. For instance I have quite enough to do without doing the bookings myself but it is quite acceptable for someone else in the practice to do that.

"Will practices implement Choose and Book for £6,000? I certainly think that given the money and the technology our practice would be happy to do so within reason."

However Dr Dixon said his major reservations were over the government’s insistence that PCTs provide four or five choices in all cases.

"I don’t think anyone would argue about patients having a choice but as a commissioner myself I know that in some cases a choice of two might be appropriate and in another case a much wider choice might be right.

"Choose and Book is there to kick the system but I hope it will quickly evolve into a more sophisticated idea where the range of choice is dictated by the needs of the local population."