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GPs' hospital referrals continue to rise

GP referrals to hospital are continuing to rise at a steady pace, while rising referrals between consultants and from other healthcare professionals are also putting pressure on PCT budgets.

The latest Government figures show GP referrals are up by 264,000, an 11% rise compared with the same quarter last year - an identical increase to that seen in the previous quarter.

‘Other referrals' - between consultants and from other healthcare professionals - jumped by 137,000, or 10%, one point more than the rise in the previous quarter.

Pulse revealed last week that PCTs were planning a crackdown on rising consultant-to-consultant referrals, placing further pressure on GPs to manage patients in the community.

Dr David Jenner, practice-based federation lead at the NHS Alliance and a GP in Cullompton, Devon, said the figures for GP referrals could show the success of controversial practice-based commissioning schemes to stem the rise.

‘There are a lot of referral management and incentive schemes in place and there is an increased focus on practices to do something about that. This is not altogether surprising, as when you look at a problem you are more sensitised to it.

Dr Jenner said the rise in referrals from other healthcare professionals could be an artefact from schemes put in place to vet GP referrals.

‘Everybody is trying to reduce referrals, but unfortunately we are not really looking at the quality of that – it is driven by finance.

‘But there are various clinical assessment schemes where referrals are seen by someone else, such as a physiotherapist.

‘This does not reduce the total number of referrals and just places an unnecessary step in the chain,' he explained.

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