PCTs describe treatments restricted by such policies under a variety of terms, including ‘non-urgent’, ‘limited clinical value’, ‘low priority’ and ‘cosmetic’.
According to responses from 111 PCTs to a Freedom of Information Act request, 64% of PCTs have now introduced such policies. Of 86 PCTs which provided detailed information on their plans, 55 have policies that restrict GP referrals for interventions that they deemed to be non-urgent or of low clinical value.
Of those PCTs that have not introduced restrictions, a third (nine out of 31) are working with GPs to reduce referrals or have put in place peer-review systems to assess referrals.
On Monday, GPonline.com revealed that 35% of PCTs have added procedures to lists of treatments that they no longer fund because they deem them to be non-urgent or of limited clinical value.
GPC negotiator Dr Chaand Nagpaul said the government needed to decide on a consistent set of national standards of ‘low priority’ treatments to help remove postcode lotteries in provision.