GP referrals could be managed by 'third party'

All GP referrals in England could be forced to go through referral management centres to avoid conflicts of interest in clinical commissioning, the GPC fears.

Dr Richard Vautrey: referral management centres have blocked access
Dr Richard Vautrey: referral management centres have blocked access

Guidance from NHS England, called Managing conflicts of interests: Guidance for CCGs, said that one way of avoiding disputes could be for a ‘third party’ to discuss with patients where they go for treatment.

‘There could be systems whereby, once a GP has made a decision to refer, a third party manages the discussion with the patient about which service they wish to be referred to,' the guidance says. 'This would take away any perceived potential for GPs to influence patient behaviour.’

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey called the suggestion 'stupid' and said ‘it was indicative of how ridiculous’ NHS reforms were becoming.

He said that referral management centres can act as a barrier between GPs and consultants. ‘In the past they have restricted access rather than supported it,’ he said.

The GPC has now called on CCGs to amend their constitutions to ensure they include clauses which help avoid conflicts of interest in clinical commissioning.

GPC negotiator Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘The GPC has been very clear from the outset that we need to have robust systems to avoid conflicts of interest.

‘We think that the government’s guidance has gone some way but it is still far too unclear in some areas, and the onus really now needs to be on the CCGs to incorporate robust clauses in their constitutions that can engender trust among their patients.’

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