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GP referrals on the rise again, DH figures show

By Lilian Anekwe

GP referrals to secondary care appear to be accelerating again, with the latest figures from the Department of Health showing a 6% year-on-year rise in the first quarter of 2010/11.

DH figures on outpatient referrals and attendances, published today, show the number of GP referrals made from April to June this year increased by 169,000 to 3.0 million.

The number of other referrals made has also increased, by 136,000 to 1.7 million – an 8.7% increase against the first quarter of 2009/10.

The figures show that, after an apparently successful clampdown by primary care organisations determined to curb the rise in referrals, GP referrals are beginning to creep up again.

In the first quarter of 2009/10 GP referrals to secondary care increased by just 2.6% compared with the same period 12 months earlier. That represented a sharp slowing in the rise, following an increase of 8.0% in the second quarter and 6.4% in the third.

The new era of GP commissioning may see responsibility for bringing referrals down shift to GP consortia, according to a recent report by the King's Fund. It predicted many consortia will establish tight peer-to-peer controls over individual practices' referrals.

Pulse exclusively revealed last month in an interview with primary care tsar Dr David Colin-Thome that GP contracts would be re-written to 'reward them for how much they can benefit from being more efficient providers of care in, say, making less inappropriate use of hospital services.'

GP referrals rose 6% in the first quarter of 2010/11 GP referrals rose 6% in the first quarter of 2010/11