GPs could be overruled when writing prescriptions or referring patients to hospital in a bid to save money.

Controversial plans to put costs ahead of care are being considered by the North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group.

Number crunchers have looked at which GP surgeries in north Essex hand out more than the average number of prescriptions or refer more than the average number of patients to hospital.

Those "outliers", as the more than 20 surgeries are described in the report" may then have an official imposed on them to control the "behaviours" of doctors.

Ultimately it could mean GPs decisions about patient care being overruled.

A report has named those practices and surgeries who are being targeted to cut costs..

Practices giving more prescriptions are described as “poor at prescribing”.

Those GPs who refer more to hospitals are described as requiring “referral improvement” based entirely on the data.

The report was prepared by a project management office for a finance and performance committee to try and cut £900,000 this year.

Methods could included employing “non-medical prescribing pharmacists” to “support and review” doctors' decisions These employees would have the power to “make changes without having to wait for a doctor’s review and agreement”.

Ten surgeries are on the "priority one" list.

Those being told to both prescribe and refer less include North Colchester Healthcare Centre in Turner Road, Colchester.

Also East Lynne Medical Centre, Green Elms and The Epping Close, Ranworth and St James Surgeries in Clacton and Jaywick.

Those practices criticised for prescriptions handed out include Highwoods and Hawthorns Surgeries in Colchester and Crusader and Old Road Surgeries in Clacton.

Practices on the second priority list who could also be told to prescribe or refer less to save cash include: Walton and Abbeyfield Medical Centres, Layer Road Surgery, Ambrose Avenue Practice, West Mersea, Parsons Heath, East Hill and Caradoc Surgeries and Portland Medical Practice.

A statement from the NEECCG stated: "This is across all practices within north east Essex and identifies those that may benefit from additional support in both areas.”

The paper was considered by the board of the commissioning group on Tuesday and accepted.