GPs issued with referral bans to save PCT cash

Budgetary problems are being moved around and will be passed on to GP consortia, LMC says.

GPs have been told to stop referring patients for certain procedures to save PCTs money.

In Kent and Warwickshire, financial pressure has meant that some operations must stop or be delayed.

Dr John Allingham, medical secretary at Kent LMC, said the measures were causing 'major problems'.

'The danger with this kind of manoeuvre is they are just shifting budget problems until it becomes the GP consortia problem,' he said.

All three PCTs in Kent have asked GPs to avoid referring patients for non-urgent procedures.

Dr Julian Spinks, a GP in north Kent, said practices in his area have been sent a 45-page list of low-priority procedures.

'I had a patient with speech problems and the speech therapist thinks the tonsils may be causing difficulties. But you need to have had five or more documented episodes of tonsilitis to be referred,' he said.

He added: 'We've got to try and keep some humanity and compassion in here.'

Eastern and Coastal Kent PCT has issued a list of low-priority procedures and asked GPs to stop referring for these.

Medical director Robert Stewart said the PCT had to achieve a £12 million surplus by the end of March. 'To ensure services are there for those most in need, we are asking our GPs to share the responsibility of addressing these challenges and help us tackle this difficult financial position,' he said.

GPC negotiator Dr Chaand Nagpaul said such moves were a breach of the principles of equitable healthcare and that GPs should continue to refer if it is in patients' best interests.

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