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Independents' Day

Trust tells GPs to stop elective referrals

GPs have condemned an acute trust's policy to limit referrals in seven specialties in order to cut waiting times.

Newcastle Hospitals NHS Trust has refused to accept some elective referrals in specialties such as orthopaedics, pain management and gynaecology from GP practices in areas on the fringes of the city.

Dr Stephen Blair, assistant secretary of Newcastle and North Tyneside LMC and a GP in Wallsend, said practices in his area had been told to refer patients to Northumbria Healthcare NHS Trust to cut waiting times in Newcastle.

'It's mainly an issue of choice,' he said. 'Some of the services are clinically different. There is no female gynaecologist at Northumbria and the pain clinic is very different. This is difficult to reconcile with the Government's choice agenda.'

He added that an 'unfair' exception had been made for some practices.

Dr Jim Page, also a GP in Wallsend, said: 'We were told there was a drive to increase patient choice but the decision removes any choice. Newcastle has much bigger capacity.'

A statement from Newcastle Hospitals NHS Trust said PCTs had asked GPs outside Newcastle to limit referrals to 'ensure the investment in capacity at all hospitals is used effectively'.

A letter from North Tyneside PCT to local GPs said the trust had been asked to support the decision but was disappointed it had not had the chance to discuss the matter.

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