PCT plans to cut referrals failing

PCT schemes to cut referrals do not work, but there is no reason GP commissioners cannot develop systems that do, a leading think tank has said.

GP outpatient referrals on the up (Photograph: Istock)
GP outpatient referrals on the up (Photograph: Istock)

A King's Fund report on referral management published last week says the success of many PCT schemes has been overestimated. Half of PCTs studied believed that their referral management schemes had cut demand, the report found.

In fact, PCTs with active referral management were no more likely to curtail demand than other PCTs.

GP referrals to outpatients increased by 19 per cent between 2005 and 2009. Consultant-to-consultant and other sources of outpatient referral increased at double this rate, 39 per cent and 41 per cent respectively, the report found.

However, King's Fund research suggested that schemes could be developed that did manage to cut referrals.

'A referral management strategy built around peer review and audit, supported by consultant feedback, with clear referral criteria and evidence-based guidelines is most likely to be both costand clinically-effective,' the report says.

'Practice-based commissioning clusters and their successors, the GP commissioning consortia, are the obvious conduit and driver for peer review and audit.'

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