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GP referrals drop for first time in six years

GP hospital referrals for the first quarter of the year have fallen for the first time in six years, the latest NHS figures show.

Statistics released last week by the Department of Health show that GPs made 2.87 million hospital referrals in the first quarter of 2011/12, compared to 3 million during the same period in 2010/11. The new figures mark a 4% drop in referrals and represent the first time quarter one referrals have fallen year on year since 2006/07. 

Despite the drop in referrals in the first quarter of 2011/12, GP hospital admissions have spiralled in recent years. In quarter one of 2007/08 GPs made 2.3 million referrals to hospital, almost 600,000 less than current levels, and the figures rose consistently until this year's drop.

GPs are under intense pressure to reduce hospital activity, as the NHS scrambles to make £20bn efficiency savings by 2015.

GPC leaders told Pulse that GPs are doing ‘all they can' to limit hospital activity without compromising patient care.

GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey, a GP in Leeds, told Pulse: ‘It is difficult to read too much in to one quarter's figures, but undoubtedly practices are doing all they can to avoid referring patients to hospital and wherever possible looking for alternative services that can help meet their patients' needs.' 

In numbers: Q1 Hospital admissions by GPs

Q1 2011/12


Q1 2010/11


Q1 2009/10


Q1 2008/09


Q1 2007/08


Q1 2006/07


Source: Department of Health