GP practices have been advised to start using new Read codes to record choice of hospital as soon as possible in order to qualify for incentive scheme payments this year.

The British Medical Association’s General Practitioner Committee has written to local medical committees to highlight the new Read codes which are expected to be used to identify patients suitable to be questioned for the choice element of the choice and booking directed enhanced service (DES) as part of the GP Patient survey.

The BMA says the Read codes, 9kK.., XaMJa and 222711000000102, are designed to record patients who have been referred for a first consultant outpatient appointment to a service where choice is offered.

The GPC says if GPs choose not to use the new choice Read codes they will be ineligible for the choice payment.

The association says most GP practices will not be using the new codes yet but should start doing so as soon as possible. The Department of Health is due to write to practices about the codes in the next few days.

The GPC says it has expressed concern that in a small number of cases technological problems in the use of Read codes may cause problems in the administration of the GP patient survey and associated choice payments. It says the DH is seeking to address these issues to minimise potential problems. Further GPC guidance will be available in due course

Details of the choice and booking DES and amendments to the Statement of Financial Entitlements have now been released and make it clear that practices can opt for the choice element of the DES alone, the Choose and Book element or both.

Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chairman of the BMA’s General Practitioner Committee, told EHI Primary Care: “There is no change to the DES, it has just been rolled forward for another year.”