GP referral plans are recipe for disaster

Asking your GP for a referral should not send a chill down their spine; neither should it be an issue to ponder over for non-clinical reasons.

Traditionally the need for a referral was clinical. Either the patient required a referral for an obvious reason, such as the development of piles requiring a specialist clinical opinion with a view to a specialist procedure; or it was the point at which a primary care clinician felt out of their depth and clinical competence and thereby sought a more specialist opinion.

The thought now that referral management is to be provided as a means for GP referrals to be 'vetted' and at worst bounced back as being inappropriate, fills most GPs with dread, and mixed in with the lack of named consultant referrals, is a recipe for disaster, given that some referral management screening will be done by junior staff.

This is going to become more of an issue for clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) who would like to ensure appropriate referrals get through but to limit what is deemed to be wasteful referrals.

Such wasteful referrals are not all wasteful referrals and it may be more appropriate to accept the referral to go through, but for some education to be provided by the specialist or by peer review, if it is thought to be inappropriate. It is now not that difficult for CCGs to keep track of referral patterns and trends from different clinicians.

In my view, peer review can help in lots of ways under such situations. Often, clinicians who refer a lot are deemed to be the bad guys, but in fact those who refer more can often be those who know at what point an intervention from a specialist is beneficial and often an earlier referral is necessary and correct. So, to ascertain the reason for the referral and perhaps reflecting on this, is more beneficial for all, rather than blocking referrals and bouncing it back to the referrer.

What's your view on GP referral plans? Add your comment.