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GP referral caps lead to hospital care backlog

Exclusive Some PCTs are still wading through backlogs of hospital care for thousands of patients which built up due to emergency rationing measures brought in at the end of the last financial year.

LMC leaders in south west Essex – where Pulse last week revealed a blanket referral cap has cut GP referrals by more than a third in the past year – have warned ‘up to 15,000 patients’ were added to waiting list backlogs.

NHS South West Essex introduced the cap across a wide range of procedures from January to March as part of a cost-cutting drive to save £52m.

Dr Brian Balmer, chief executive of Essex LMCs and a GP in Chelmsford, said: ‘They built up a waiting list of around 15,000 patients that the PCT is now having to work through. For some procedures they just stopped accepting referrals and they told the acute trusts they wouldn’t pay for anything. GPs had little say in it – we were sold it as a done deal.’

Tom Abell, director of commissioning at NHS South West Essex, admitted there had been delays, but said the backlog had now been significantly reduced.

He said: ‘We have agreed for the backlog of patients to be treated by December,’ he said. ‘This comprises 2,200 first outpatient attendances of which 850 are day case and elective inpatient treatments.’

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