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NHS hospital appointments “blocked”

24 February 2011

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Up to one in eight patients are being denied treatment by hospitals after being referred by their GPs, according to a survey.

A poll of 380 GPs by Pulse magazine found many patients referred for procedures such as knee and hip replacements, cataract surgery and IVF, had been turned away.

A third of those polled said their patients had had treatment blocked or diverted after being screened by a referral management centre.The NHS uses these centres to assess the clinical appropriateness of GP referrals before treatment is allowed to proceed, and trusts admit they help cut costs.

In the latest poll, 21% of GPs said their patients face restrictions in access to hip and knee replacements, 13% to cataract surgery, 13% to allergy services and 10% to services for chronic fatigue syndrome or ME.

As many as 31% of GPs said they had been informed by their primary care organisation of restrictions to IVF, 48% to varicose vein surgery and 25% to tonsillectomy.

Around 80% of 32 primary care organisations responding to the Freedom of Information Act request said they had referral management centres.

According to the Pulse investigation, NHS South West Essex has written to GPs telling them that 213 different procedures – ranging from allergy treatment to hysterectomy – will no longer be funded except in exceptional circumstances.

GPs in the area have had 12% of referrals blocked – 4% diverted to another health professional or provider, and 8% rejected outright.

Copyright © Press Association 2011