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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Move on referrals

GPs in Northern Ireland have endorsed the creation of a referral management centre for the province.

GPs in Northern Ireland have endorsed the creation of a referral management centre for the province.

But they have warned it must not undermine clinical autonomy and patients' right to a second opinion, and must be adequately funded.

LMC representatives voted to back the Integrated Clinical Assessment and Treatment Services system in order to help cut massive waiting times for secondary care referrals.

The management centre aims to streamline referrals, refer patients to the appropriate clinician first time round, track referrals electronically and communicate directly with patients throughout the process.

The scheme is part of plans to speed first referrals to 13 weeks and treatment within another 21 weeks. Waiting times in Northern Ireland are up three years in some specialties.

Dr George O'Neill, a GP in Belfast who is helping ICATS redesign urology pathways, said existing referral practice was clogging up the system.

He said: 'Only 12 out of every 100 urology referrals needs to be seen by a consultant.'

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