An investigation by the British Medical Journal (BMJ) has revealed that the National Health Service (NHS) is spending millions of pounds on private companies that stop GPs referring patients to hospitals. The investigation found 39% of Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) use a referral management system of some kind to help manage outpatient activity in local hospitals, and a third of the schemes are provided by private companies.
In the last three years, CCGs have spent £57m on schemes that screen patient referrals from GPs to specialist services. Some of the schemes aim to decrease costs, while others hope to improve the quality of GP referrals. But almost three quarters of CCGs which responded were unable to provide evidence that disclosed whether or not their scheme had saved money overall.
Here are listed some findings from the BMJ investigation:
The deputy chair of the BMA’s GP committee, Dr Richard Vautrey said that the CCGs are leaping at these schemes without any clear indication of benefit and that they’re just hopeful that it might lessen their costs.
As public bodies, there should be an expectation on every CCG to account for what it’s doing, he added.
The Chair of the Royal College of GPs (RCGP), Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, said it was “distressing” to see such little evidence of referral management centres saving money and called for improved evaluation of the schemes.
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