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Backlash over cancer referrals criticism, middle-aged alcoholism and ambulance delays keep patients waiting

The Telegraph’s splash on Saturday revealed the first data from new GP practice league tables, which the paper claimed shows that 59% of practices give two-week referrals to less than half of patients later diagnosed with cancer.

The story garnered plenty of national attention but also prompted a backlash from doctors. In a follow-up story, the Telegraph says it has heard from a number of doctors who believe referral management schemes and the switch to CCGs may be possible causes of low referral rates.

Dr Peter Mahaffey, a surgeon in Bedfordshire, told the paper he had not noticed a change in GPs’ levels of caring, but said ‘the increasing pressure on GPs not to refer their patients to hospital’ was ‘patently obvious to most consultants’.

‘This is the inevitable consequence of asking primary care doctors to manage their own constrained budget allocations,’ he said.

The Guardian reports that people in their forties account more than one fifth of the half a million people who have been hospitalised for drink and drug related issues in the last three years.

The paper reports that 120,821 admissions since 2010 were for people aged 40 to 49, prompting hospital chiefs to warn of the increased health risks from long-term drinking, as well as its financial burden.

Dr Martin McShane, NHS England’s director for patients with long-term conditions, said the figures showed a ‘deeply worrying trend that we should all take heed of’.

He added: ‘We are the NHS. We are here to help anybody who comes through the door. But excessive consumption of alcohol does hit the public purse hard, there is no question about that.’

And finally, the BBC has found that many patients taken to hospital by ambulance are being left to wait far longer than the recommended 15 minutes, with one Welsh patient left waiting for six hours.

The BBC sent ambulance services a Freedom of Information request asking for their longest waits in the 12 weeks from August to October, as part of its NHS Winter campaign.

A spokesperson for the Welsh government - where three-hour waits were a weekly occurrence – said: ‘Lengthy patient handover delays are clearly unacceptable.’

But he added the long delays were the ‘exception to the rule’.

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