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GPs told: cut referrals by 20 per cent

GPs in south London are being ordered to reduce referrals across the board by up to 20 per cent as part of desperate cost cutting measures.

Southwark and Lambeth PCTs are seeking to reduce referrals by 10 per cent on average in order to help save a total of £40 million this year.

The move is part of a pan-London referral management programme for this year to ensure the capital stays in financial balance.

But GPs have argued there is no evidence that low referral rates equate to better quality care.

Dr Clare Gerada, a GP in Lambeth and chair of the RCGP medical ethics committee, said her practice had been asked to reduce referrals by 5 per cent but others had been told to cut them by one-fifth.

GPs had to be accountable for their referrals, she added, but high referring GPs may be those with a high number of patients with complex conditions, rather than poor performers.

Dr Gerada said: 'We can no longer refer into a vacuum. It's impossible to say if a referral is inappropriate but we look at variability and look at whether they can be managed differently, then it's up to each individual.'

Sarah Cottingham, Lambeth PCT's joint director of service strategy and commissioning, said the referral cuts represented a speeding up of its shift towards treating more patients in the community.

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