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Pioneering pathfinder consortium signs referral management deal with UnitedHealth UK

By Ian Quinn

One of the first GP pathfinder consortia groups has signed a deal with private firm UnitedHealth UK to run a major crackdown on GP referrals.

NHS Hounslow today revealed the new Referral Facilitation Service would handle all referrals, including consultant-to-consultant referrals, from February 2011.

The trusts says all 57 GP practices in the area have agreed to the consortium plans, which will see it become the first to go into fully-fleged partnership with the private sector.

The Great West Commissioning Consortium was revealed by Pulse last month as one of the first consortia pilots.

Dr Nicola Burbidge, a GP at the Wellesley Road Surgery in Chiswick, west London and Chair of the Great West Commissioning Consortium, said: 'Better information about Hounslow patients and their use of hospital care will help GPs become effective commissioners. It will provide better information on how capacity is used, which will help us spend the budget allocated to Hounslow wisely.'

She added: 'The Referral Facilitation Service will make sure patients are seen directly by the right service, as agreed by local clinicians. GPs from the Great West Consortium have designed the referral guidelines. The new service will help improve understanding of what services are available locally and how to use them and we are pleased to be working with UnitedHealth UK who can give us expert support to help us deliver.'

Pulse has previously reported how firms including UnitedHealth UK, Tribal, Humana, Bupa and Aetna UK have been talking to consortia offering to provide technology and back-office support to run referral management schemes with the looming demise of PCTs.

Dr Luke Twelves, director of clinical commissioning at UnitedHealth UK, said: 'I'm really excited about this project.'

‘It points the way for the sort of innovative partnerships that GP consortia can increasingly expect to deliver as they take on more and more of the commissioning role. Ensuring that patients get the right information to make the best decisions about their care, and that the available resources are used as effectively as possible, has the potential to have a significant impact on health outcomes in Hounslow.'

Sue Jeffers, director of primary care commissioning at NHS Hounslow, said: ‘Hounslow has high levels of referrals when compared nationally, so working with local clinicians, we were keen to review our processes to find ways to be more efficient and ensure that patients are receiving the right care in the right place. This will be increasingly important as GPs take a central role in commissioning.'

The trust said UnitedHealth UK had won the contract following a competitive tender process, with the selection panel including local GPs and patients.

‘If, following a discussion with their GP, a hospital appointment is required, the service will help patients book their appointment using Choose and Book,' it added.


The deal with UnitedHealth UK will place GP referrals under increased scrutiny The deal with UnitedHealth UK will place GP referrals under increased scrutiny Do you have the knowledge and expertise to make a success of commissioning?

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