Financial cuts must not compromise GP referrals, says BMA

The decision to refer care is between the GP and the patient and must not be compromised by financial restraints, doctors have said.

Dr Michael Ingram supported the motion (Photograph: J H Lancy)
Dr Michael Ingram supported the motion (Photograph: J H Lancy)

Delegates at the BMA's Annual Representatives Meeting in Cardiff supported the motion which rejected 'the uses of referral centres and other crude methods to reduce referrals for financial reasons rather than benefits to patients'.

Hertfordshire GP Dr Michael Ingram said that two of his orthopaedic patients had been denied surgery because they were smokers.

'Our PCT does not allow orthopaedic surgery for patients unless they go on a non-smoking course first,’ Dr Ingram said. ‘This is evil.’

Dr Peter Bennie, from Scotland, spoke against the motion. He warned that giving GPs complete referral responsibility would cut secondary care doctors out of the process.

‘This motion seems to say: if the GP refers, secondary care must see,’ Dr Bennie said.

Dr Bennie warned that the motion would ‘reverse’ advances made by the NHS Future Forum report, promoting the inclusion of secondary care doctors in commissioning.

Chairman of the BMA Dr Hamish Meldrum disagreed: ‘This motion is not against discussions taking place to avoid unnecessary referrals.'

Defending the motion, GP Dr Gillian Beck, of the Buckinghamshire division, said: ‘One of the skills we develop as GPs is to get the right patient to the right person at the right time in the right place.’

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