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Two-thirds of GPs see services cut

Two-thirds of GPs have seen local services cut back over the past year as NHS deficits bite deep, a Pulse investigation reveals.

Maternity services and district nursing are among the hardest hit, writes Daniel Cressey.

The analysis of the effects on local services reported by 50 GPs exposes the extent to which care has suffered from financial meltdown in the health service.

It confirms anecdotal reports of cuts in sexual and mental health services, with 32 and 42 per cent respectively of GPs approached by Pulse reporting cuts.

Public health has suffered badly, with 22 per cent of GPs reporting cuts in obesity management and 16 per cent in smoking cessation services.

And despite massive injections of cash into the NHS, only 4 per cent of GPs have seen local services expand.

The cuts in maternity services, reported by a third of GPs, came in the same week the Government pledged to provide a midwife for every mother (see story below).

Other areas being targeted by cash-strapped trusts included minor surgery, physiotherapy, family planning and podiatry.

Dr Tony Greig, a GP in Ludgershall, Wiltshire, said he had seen sexual health, mental health and district nursing services cut. He added: 'We can no longer refer patients for vasectomy or sleep apnoea, among other areas considered to be non-essential by the PCT.'

Dr Elizabeth Barrett, a GP

in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, said: 'It seems to be impacting most on district nursing services. It has a very detrimental effect on the quality of care people are getting in their homes, which is ironic at a time when we're supposed to be stepping up care at home.'

Many GPs reported having referrals inappropriately diverted by managers, with 13 per cent saying this happened frequently and 50 per cent occasionally.

Dr Nicholas Tresidder, a GP in Stanford-le-Hope in Essex, said: 'Services have been cut and frequently referrals have been misdirected. My particular concerns are district nurses, midwives and health visitors.'

'And diabetic patients are being discharged back to primary care en masse when resources have not been transferred back, thereby causing mayhem.'

Another respondent said: 'The biggest frustration is that the hospital cannot do in-house referrals so asks us to re-refer to colleagues down the corridor – wasting time, paper and money.'

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