The NHS is spending millions on private companies that stop GPs referring patients to hospitals, an investigation has revealed.

Controversial “referral management centres” are supposed to cut costs and improve the quality of GP referrals – but three quarters of NHS bodies that told the British Medical Journal (BMJ) they used the schemes could not say whether they had saved money overall.

The centres can block or redirect GP referrals for procedures such as hip and knee replacements, treatment for allergies and cataract surgery to manage outpatient activity at local hospitals.

At least £57m has been paid out to them since April 2013, according to the 69 per cent of Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) using the schemes which gave details of their operating costs.

Doctors expressed concern that paying third parties to screen GP referrals – around a third of which are run by private companies – was of questionable effectiveness.

Full Story in The Independent, 4 January 2017

 

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