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Referral centres anger GPs

GPs are growing increasingly concerned over the trend for PCTs to set up referral management centres as part of cost-cutting moves.

LMCs have reported worries over threats to confidentiality, unclear liability and the failure of PCTs to consult before setting up the centres.

The BMA, which released guidance on referral management last week, said GPs had reported cases where referrals had been returned before they reached the recipient or judged inappropriate and not pursued.

Some centres were also using managers, rather than clinicians, and copies of letters had been retained without patient consent, it said.

Dr Gary Calver, Kent LMC secretary, said GPs in South West Kent PCT were unhappy about the way a centre had been introduced without consultation and had raised concerns about confidentiality. The centre had also caused delays, he said.

North and South Essex LMCs have contacted the county's strategic health authority over new 'manual choice' systems. Andrew Bradshaw, deputy chief executive of the LMCs, said there were 'serious concerns' on the possible consequences of complicating the referral process.

GPs in Oxfordshire and Shropshire also reported concern, but said local PCTs had to cut huge deficits somehow.

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