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Management of GP referrals starting to have impact

By Gareth Iacobucci

The clampdown on GP referrals by primary care organisations appears to be having an impact, with the rate of increase easing in the latest figures.

GP referrals to secondary care increased by just 2.6% in the fourth quarter of the 2009/10 financial year against 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.

Overall, the number of GP referrals increased by 72,000 to 2.8 million during the last quarter of 2009/10, while the number of other referrals increased by 52,000 (3.4%) to 1.6 million against the fourth quarter of 2008/9.

The decline suggests the growing number of PCTs introducing referral management schemes to manage demand are having an impact on GP referrals.

However, the schemes have proved controversial, with Pulse recently revealing that GPs are being hit with unprecedented caps and restrictions on their referrals by NHS managers to reduce spending on acute services.

Our survey of 45 UK trusts and health boards found that almost two-thirds either a referral management scheme in place, or plan to implement one this year.

Management of GP referrals starting to have impact