The NHS hospital run by private provider Circle has been forced to withdraw an offer to pay local GPs a £50 ‘administrative fee’ for surgery referrals, claiming the proposal had been ‘misunderstood in some areas’.

The offer from Cambridgeshire based Hinchingbrooke Health Care Trust came in an email - seen by HSJ - that was circulated earlier this week to nearby GPs.

The email - signed by Hinchingbrooke chief executive Hisham Abdel-Rahman - noted there were “system wide issues affecting capacity to perform elective surgery across hospitals in the region”.

It added that the trust was “able to offer short waiting times for elective treatment”.

“Should a patient contact our hotline and request to transfer their care from another hospital to Hinchingbrooke, we will contact their GP surgery on their behalf so that the re-referral can be processed without the need for the patient to visit their GP,” the email said.

“We appreciate that re-referral of a patient will generate additional administrative work for the patient’s surgery. Therefore the trust will pay a £50 administrative fee for every re-referral that is made through the hotline.”

The offer was withdrawn in a second email - also signed by Dr Abdel-Rahman - sent out the following day.

The second email said: “[The trust] proposed a fee of up to £50 which we offered to assist with the complex administrative issues that can be experienced when re-referring patients from one organisation to another.

“Following feedback from some of my GP colleagues, this has been misunderstood in some areas. As a result of this feedback I have decided to withdraw this offer.”

A spokesman for Circle, the private healthcare provider that is currently managing Hinchingbrooke under a landmark 10-year franchise deal, said the trust had been “working closely with our [clinical commissioning group] and nearby hospitals to meet the 18 week waiting time target across the region”.

He continued: “We have capacity to take on some procedures, so we agreed to write to GPs letting them know about elective surgery options at Hinchingbrooke.

“GPs are busy and it does take some administrative time to transfer providers, so we offered them the same admin fee that hospitals in the region have traditionally required.

“It became clear this had the potential to be taken the wrong way, so the fee is no longer offered.

“We’re sorry for the confusion. Our only intention was to help ease waiting time pressures, and make sure patients got timely treatment they deserve.”