Responding to figures obtained by the BBC into use of referral management schemes by Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA GP committee chair, said:
"CCGs are using a range of referral management schemes, many without any clear evidence of benefit, in a desperate attempt to reduce their costs. These schemes put a barrier between a GP making a referral and the hospital specialist, and can further the wait for patients.
"In many cases, referrals are delayed further due to the referral being returned to the GP if the forms are incorrectly filled in. This is a worrying example of bureaucracy penalising patients and delaying the time for them to receive a diagnosis or treatment.
"The majority of these schemes have not been assessed for cost effectiveness, meaning the process may cost more than any intended savings made from reducing the number of patients seeing specialists. It is an incredibly short-sighted approach to healthcare management.
"As public bodies, there should be an expectation on every CCG to account for what it's doing with public funds, and we need to see much more evaluation of how these schemes work."