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GP referrals jump 4%

By Lilian Anekwe

GP referrals rose by 4% last year, according to Department of Health figures that suggest GPs will struggle to hit new QOF targets to bring down outpatient activity.

The latest DH figures on GP outpatient referrals, published last week, show there were just over 2.9m referrals in the final quarter of 2010/11, a rise of more than 250,000 referrals from the third quarter of the last financial year, when there was just 2.6m GP referrals to outpatient departments.

Figures were also published for the full financial year 2010/11, when primary care organisations employed a series of tactics, including external and remote triage, referral gateway centres and delaying referrals until after April, in order to curb a rise in GP referrals.

But the figures show these attempts were unsuccessful, as the number of GP referrals made in 2010/11 increased by 490,000 compared to 2009/10, a rise of 4.4% to 11.6 million.

The latest rise could have implications for GP practices trying to hit targets, set out in new QOF indicators on quality and productivity, to internally review practice data on secondary care outpatient referrals and compare it to those of other practices, and engage with the development of three agreed care pathways for improving the management of patients in primary care and avoid inappropriate outpatient referrals.

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