In many health care systems primary care physicians act as ‘gatekeepers’ to secondary care. We investigates the impact of the UK fundholding scheme under which general practices could elect to hold a budget to meet the costs of elective surgery for their patients. We use a differences in differences methodology on a large four year panel of English general practices before and after the abolition of fundholding. Fundholding incentives reduced fundholder elective admission rates by 3.3% and accounted for 57% of the difference between fundholder and nonfundholder elective admissions, with 43% a selection effect due to unobservable differences in practice characteristics. Fundholding had no effect on emergency admissions.