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Media coverage on GP referrals

Many of you will have seen the coverage in today's national newspapers and radio and TV news, and in Pulse yesterday, of the story about GP referral incentives.

We are disappointed that this reporting implies the CCG is trying to get GPs to reduce the number of patients referred for cancer.

This scheme was designed by clinicians with significant input from local GPs and the LMC and is about improving the quality of referrals, not reducing them. The scheme is based on evidence of best practice in managing variation in referrals.  The CCG actively encourages prompt referrals via agreed two week pathways for patients who present with symptoms that might indicate cancer.

The payment to GPs is one element of a wider scheme designed to support and resource General Practice in Lambeth. It is NOT designed to reduce the number of people being referred to hospital who need to be there – for instance patients who may have cancer.
For your information we will issue the following statement to media who contact us for further comment.

A spokesperson for NHS Lambeth Clinical Commissioning Group, said:
"We encourage Lambeth GPs to refer any suspected cancers at the earliest opportunity in line with national guidance and hope to see cancer referrals increase this year. This incentive scheme covers many more issues and we are working with our GP practices to achieve quality in all their referrals.
"This move is not designed to keep people out of hospital who need hospital treatment, but to make sure all GPs are referring patients appropriately. We have always been very clear that we are not just paying GPs to refer fewer patients as this would be poor practice.

"Like all other CCGs, we want to reduce the number of patients being sent to hospitals unnecessarily and ensure patients are being seen in the right place at the right time. The cost associated with going to hospital is not just for the CCG but also for patients and carers and we are aiming to provide care close to home wherever possible and at hospital when needed. We are using savings to increase our spending on preventing ill health.

"This CCG is committed to achieving the very best possible outcomes for local people and we aim to commission high quality care in the most cost-effective way for all the 370,000 people registered with Lambeth practices.

"Our contract with practices is designed to optimise the quality of our GP referrals. There is already significant variation in referral rates between practices. This cannot be right. We are more worried by someone who under refers than over refers. Two thirds of the funding is spent on support to help GPs to make good quality and appropriate referrals – providing education and internal processes that support them to make the right decisions. The element relating to the rate of referrals is a small part of the funding and is not designed to stop GPs referring patients who have a clinical need for hospital treatment such as cancer patients. In fact, as a CCG we are working hard to ensure cancer is detected earlier, referrals are swift and treatments maximise life chances."