GP practices could outsource "back office" jobs to new national or regional call centres under a new cost-cutting strategy recommended to the government.
The "appointment centres" could be set up to handle GP appointments under a "radical" change to the system that would save millions of pounds, said the document, commissioned by the Department of Health.
The report, published by the Foundation Trust Network, recommended that "GPs review the possibility of moving to call centres for appointment-based bookings" and set out a series of possibilities for streamlining "back office" functions in the NHS and "sharing" services to save £600m a year. It said this cash could be "redirected" to support frontline services.
It said: "The majority of GP practices have dedicated administrative support teams, often undertaking identical tasks, including the organisation and booking of patient appointments. This system should be radically re-engineered."
The document added: "There are substantial efficiency gains to be achieved through transforming GP back-office functions, such as the potential to move towards regional and national GP appointment centres."
The review, by Tony Spotswood, chief executive of Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals, also included proposals for "streamlining" other functions including finance, human resources, information management and technology, procurement, estates management, governance and risk and payroll.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said there were no plans at the department to introduce call centres and the review set out proposals of how NHS organisations themselves may choose to streamline functions.
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Your comments (terms and conditions apply):
"I'm all in favour of saving money, in my experience a lot of the waste is in appointments that are not attended in primary care and secondary care. Also my experience in GP practice is that a lot of work by admin staff is completed out of good will, I wonder if the call centres will live up?" – Angela Carney, Liverpool
"No way can this work, staff involved in booking appointments do far more than this" - Name and address supplied
"Booking an appointment for a doctor isn't quite like booking your car in for a service!!! Nor is that the only job receptionists do - it may free up a limited amount of time for staff to carry out other jobs that have to be done. Who telephones patients to follow up actions from doctors - pathology results, actions from mail received etc? How insulting to practice staff to have to read the comments expressed below" - Julie Moyes, Nottinghamshire
"I support this 100%. It's time the NHS freed up money for vital frontline services by sacking the receptionists, practice managers and other jobsworth bureaucrats and non jobs clogging up primary care" – Marcus Chievling, Berwick