The British Medical Association is to call for greater clinical engagement in referral management centres run by primary care trusts, HSJ has learnt.

The BMA is set to publish a list of principles, which it hopes will be endorsed by the Department of Health, outlining how referral management centres and capture, treat, assess and support services run by PCTs, or the private sector on their behalf, should operate.

The centres have been set up by a number of PCTs across the country to ensure that after a GP's referral, the patient is placed in the right setting for treatment - not automatically in an acute hospital. But they have caused controversy: foundation trusts claim some have been used to move patients away from. the acute sector to underused independent sector treatment centres.

Speaking at an NHS Networks conference, national primary care director Dr David Colin-Thomas said the centres must have clinicians' ëbuy-in'.

BMA consultants and specialists committee chair Dr Jonathan Fielden said several referral management centre schemes had been a ëmess'. ëWe must ensure these centres do not stand in the way of GP-to-consultant referrals and reduce the quality of care,' he said.