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GP referrals to private hospitals reach record high

The proportion of GP referrals to non-NHS hospitals via Choose and Book has hit a record high in 2011, with Department of Health figures revealing a continued transition of work to the private sector.

Official NHS figures obtained by Pulse shows that 7.6% of GP referrals made in Choose and Book went to non-NHS hospitals in August this year, up 1% from the previous year and 2.5% from 2009 levels. The data is collected by the DH as a measure of patient choice as part of the NHS Operating Framework.

Against a backdrop of GP concerns over NHS privatisation, the data reveals how referrals to non-NHS hospitals have spiralled in the last five years. Non-NHS hospitals received 1.7% of Choose and Book referrals in 2006/07.

The influence of the private sector has steadily increased since, reaching an average of 7.3% of referrals in the first six months of 2011/12.

A DH spokesperson said:‘This measure does not in any way set a target for the proportion of patients choosing to use or not use non NHS providers.'

‘It is simply one of a number of indicators which helps us to understand whether patients are being offered choice and exercising it. There is no good or bad level, but we would want to understand the reasons for any significant change in the trend, up or down.'