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News of the Day ... In Perspective

11/9/2006

Consultant visits rationed by stealth in UK

About one-third of Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) in the British National Health Service have set up “referral management centres” that are supposed to speed referrals and assure that patients get the right treatment.

But when patients in the Milton Keynes PCT started complaining about long delays, their GPs found a backlog of 2,000 letters locked in a cupboard by the centre’s secretaries until just short of the 13-week waiting time target set by the government.

The delay limits the number of consultant appointments in any one year, thus saving money for the PCT. In a survey conducted by the medical magazine Pulse, 10 percent of PCTs admitted to a specific target for cutting referrals.

The referral schemes, say GPs, are creating another tier of NHS bureaucracy that could harm patients’ health (London Telegraph 10/15/06).

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