Practice-based commissioners are reducing inappropriate patient referrals to hospital, according to figures released this week by the Department of Health.

They suggest early examples from practice-based commissioners show that the GP reforms could cut 2.5 million unnecessary referrals a year.

According to DoH figures from early adopter sites there has been a 25 per cent reduction in the number of GP referrals.

Commenting on the figures, health minister Andy Burnham said: 'We are seeing promising signs that the NHS is starting to provide more care closer to home. The successful roll-out of reforms like practice-based commissioning will see more patients receive care locally'.

The DoH has also confirmed that figures for December 2006 show that all 152 primary care trusts achieved the definition of universal coverage of practice-based commissioning, with plans in place for all GP practices to become involved by the end of this year.