GPs demand end to 'scandalous' waste of 14m appointments from repeat hospital referrals

GP leaders are calling on NHS commissioners to stop hospitals dumping unnecessary workload on practices by forcing them to re-refer patients who miss appointments.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul: 'This merry-go-round is an absolute waste of time for the patient, the GP and the hospital'
Dr Chaand Nagpaul: 'This merry-go-round is an absolute waste of time for the patient, the GP and the hospital'

Ending the ‘merry go round’ of GPs rebooking after patients miss their first hospital appointment could cut bureaucracy and save time and money for both GPs and hospitals, GP leaders have said.

A recent study by the Primary Care Foundation and NHS Alliance found that 4.5% of GP appointments were taken up rearranging hospital appointments.

GPC chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul called the the use of up to 14m appointments a year in this way a ‘scandalous’ waste, which he said was 'denying other ill patients access to a GP'.

GP appointments wasted

Dr Nagpaul has written to NHS England calling for new national guidance for CCGs to implement a new system of automatic re-referrals allowing patients to re-book missed appointments.

‘They seem to want to put an end to this policy which is prevalent throughout the country,' Dr Nagpaul told GPonline. ‘We are trying to sort this out at a national level as well as putting pressure on CCGs. But we need NHS England to direct CCGs to ensure every provider stops automatic requests for a re-referral.’

The GPC has asked GPs to contact CCGs and hospitals asking them to put the suggested new system in place.

GP referral letter

A template letter asks commissioners to ‘amend local commissioning specifications to require that providers put in place an automatic re-referral system to enable patients to directly rebook a missed appointment’.

Dr Nagpaul said in a bulletin to GPs: ‘This merry-go-round is an absolute waste of time for the patient, the GP and the hospital. It delays care and is costing the NHS dearly in bureaucracy and capacity.

‘I would suggest that all GP practices urge their CCG to specify to their local hospital a system that enables patients to directly rebook a missed appointment by contacting the hospital within four weeks, thus liberating several thousand GP appointments daily and saving hospitals an enormous amount of time and effort.’

Photo: JH Lancy

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