Post­code lot­tery fear over health cuts

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - News - By ASHA ME­HTA asha.me­hta@pe­ter­bor­oughto­day.co.uk

FEARS have been raised that pa­tients could face a post­code lot­tery of GP care if doc­tors are forced to stick to new tough lim­its on hos­pi­tal re­fer­rals.

Health chiefs at cash-strapped NHS Peter­bor­ough want to limit the num­ber of hos­pi­tal re­fer­rals that can be made by each city surgery, with ev­ery de­ci­sion be­ing re­viewed by “buddy” doc­tors from other prac­tices.

They have also set tar­gets on the num­ber of medicines that GPs pre­scribe.

This re­fer­ral man­age­ment ini­tia­tive is one of the cor­ner­stones of the pri­mary care trust’s (PCT) fi­nan­cial re­cov­ery plan, which aims to claw back £20 mil­lion sav­ings by the end of the fi­nan­cial year. It comes af­ter it spi­ralled £12.8 mil­lion in the red in March.

Tony Dur­can, from the Royal Col­lege of Nurs­ing, has hit out at the lim­its.

He said: “There may be a post­code lot­tery where some doc­tors in one part of Peter­bor­ough may re­fer pa­tients to hos­pi­tal while oth­ers may not.

“Also, with pre­scrib­ing tar­gets, some GPs may say to peo­ple they can have cer­tain drugs while oth­ers don’t.

“We still have mas­sive con­cerns and very lit­tle con­fi­dence in this or­gan­i­sa­tion be­ing able to achieve very am­bi­tious tar­gets.”

Peter­bor­ough Lo­cal In­volve­ment Net­work (LINk) vice-pres­i­dent Gor­don Lacey also voiced his con­cerns at PCT board meet­ing yes­ter­day.

He said: “What safe­guards are there if re­fer­rals are not oc­cur­ring when they should and how will we know be­fore it’s too late?”

PCT di­rec­tor of pub­lic health Dr Andy Lig­gins gave as­sur­ances pa­tients would not suf­fer. He said: “No pa­tient who re­quires treat­ment or a re­fer­ral to hos­pi­tal is not go­ing to get that. It’s not about stop­ping any­one go­ing to hos­pi­tal that needs to.”

Di­rec­tor of per­for­mance and con­tracts Sarah Shut­tle­wood added: “Some re­fer­rals are ob­vi­ous ones that have to go to hos­pi­tals and in these cases, there won’t be any de­lay. We will also make sure that none are be­ing in­ap­pro­pri­ately re­ferred.”

The meet­ing also heard that the PCT has over­spent by £1.85 mil­lion this fi­nan­cial year so far.

But in­terim fi­nance di­rec­tor Les­ley Mcleod said this was in line with pre­dic­tions and the PCT was still pre­dicted to be £12.7 mil­lion in the red by the end of year.

PCT con­tracts with the city’s hos­pi­tal and mental health trusts are yet to be signed but ne­go­ti­a­tions should be com­plete in the month.

AS­SUR­ANCES: PCT di­rec­tor of pub­lic health Dr Andy Lig­gins.

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