Lansley blocks blanket bans on GP scan referrals

Health secretary Andrew Lansley has ordered PCTs not to enforce blanket bans on GP use of diagnostic scans, after a GP investigation revealed trusts were blocking scans to cut costs.

Andrew Lansley: blocking scan ban (Photograph: P Hill)
Andrew Lansley: blocking scan ban (Photograph: P Hill)

Mr Lansley has asked NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson to write to PCTs warning them not to block GPs sending patients to diagnostics when clinically valid. The move follows an exclusive GP investigation that found the profession faced heightened scrutiny over use of scans (GP, 9 September).

Some trusts had scrapped direct access to scans such as MRI and CT to save money, the investigation revealed.

Mr Lansley addressed the issue while speaking at a joint NHS Alliance and National Association of Primary Care event in London last week.

He told delegates including representatives from half of England's commissioning groups that clinically-led commissioning could solve the problem. 'We've always been clear that commissioners' decisions on access to treatment must be sensitive to clinical needs. They can't be based on blanket restrictions,' he said.

'One of the benefits of moving decision-making closer to patients is that GPs are able to make decisions for clinical reasons. It is a better way of managing resources.'

Sir David's letter will state that where PCTs are trying to reduce referrals they should do so on a case-by-case basis.

A DoH spokesman said it was 'unacceptable' to deny access to treatment to hit financial targets alone. 'If PCTs are 'banning'

GPs from referring patients for scans directly that is wrong and we have already set aside £750 million to help them do so.'

He added: This is exactly why we will be giving GPs control of the purse strings. They are more accountable to patients and will be rewarded for the standard and quality of care.'

GP leaders had warned restricting access to scans could delay diagnoses.

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