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Referrals row brewing up

GPs' anger over the mismanagement of their referrals looks set to boil over into a full-scale revolt at this year's LMC conference.

Seventeen LMCs from across the UK are demanding GP referrals be accepted by a named consultant, and believe the current intervention from non-clinicians via referral management centres is 'unacceptable'.

East Sussex is one of the LMCs which has tabled a motion on referral management.

Dr James Gillgrass, who is chief executive of Sussex and Surrey LMCs and wrote the motion, said: 'Referral management centres are not what GPs want and not best for patients. The interference by non-clinicians is totally unacceptable. Now patients are just getting bounced back via referral management centres and people have complained.'

Dr Guy Watkins, chief executive of Cambridgeshire LMC, another of those laying down motions, went further, saying referral management turned the notion of patient choice into a myth: 'Choice is to the NHS what the Loch Ness monster is to Scotland. It's a wonderfully romantic idea, there are opportunities to go and look for it and even some who believe they have experienced it first-hand, but fundamentally, nobody in their right mind believes it exists.'

Referral management motions

• GPs must have right to have referrals accepted by a particular consultant – South Staffordshire

• Referral management centres impede rather than facilitate the referral of patients to hospital – Oxfordshire

• GPs should have the right to choose whether or not to refer via clinical assessment services as they have clinical responsibility for their patients – Hertfordshire

• Patients, as well as GPs, must retain the right to referral to a named consultant – Worcestershire

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