The Daily Telegraph

What qualifies for an urgent NHS referral?


sir – Having waited weeks for a specialist appointmen­t, I learnt from a general practice receptioni­st that the request had not been sent and wouldn’t be sent for some time, because “it isn’t urgent”.

It appears that unless the request mentions the word “cancer”, it is held back. The Government can thus claim that cancers are being fast-tracked and hospital waiting lists are falling. Yet other conditions can be just as dangerous.

When I was working in the NHS, all appointmen­ts were sent out the same day and the specialist decided on their urgency.

Keith Ferris FRCS

Coxheath, Kent

sir – Medical school places should be increased (report, February 23), and medical student apprentice­ships would help.

As someone with over 50 years’ experience of teaching medical students, I am convinced that, as apprentice­s, they can work in healthcare organisati­ons while fulfilling university curriculum requiremen­ts. This occurred during the early stages of the pandemic, when many students volunteere­d to assist in intensive-care units, with great benefits for all concerned.

At present some 40 per cent of medical students are employed part-time, mainly in the hospitalit­y industry, to supplement their cost of living. How much better would it be if they were employed with their educationa­l needs integrated into healthcare settings – for example, as paid ward or theatre assistants, or in GP surgeries and care homes?

This increased patient contact and valuable clinical experience would assist with staff shortages as well as being of educationa­l benefit. Emeritus Prof Irving Taylor FRCS Edgware, Middlesex

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