NHS restrictions see more GPs unable to refer patients for treatment
At least once month or more frequently, 79% of GPs in Bath and the surrounding areas(1) are unable to refer a patient for further treatment on the NHS because the patient does not fit current PCT criteria for the procedure they require.
The regional experience outstrips the national average of 70%, according to a survey by ComRes(2), and commissioned by private healthcare provider BMI Healthcare.
This implies that up to 750,000* patients nationwide per year cannot be referred by their GP for further treatment on the NHS.
Alongside the inability to refer patients, one in four (25%) GPs in Bath and the surrounding areas said they had already seen an increase in patients asking about paying for care outside of the NHS, and one in six (16%) said they are increasingly instigating discussions about private healthcare options with their patients. Again variation occurs across the country but increases in discussions between GPs and patients appear consistent across the UK.
This suggests that both patients and GPs are increasingly facing situations where the treatment or procedure required is not available on the NHS, and 74% of GPs in the area believe that people are seeking information on paying for their healthcare outside of the NHS because of this.
Local GPs also believe that people are seeking information about paying for healthcare outside of the NHS because:
Patients were no longer eligible for treatment under the NHS criteria (65%)
Patients are less willing to wait to receive treatment (61%)
Patients believe that waiting lists on the NHS have got longer (43%)
GPs are facing increasingly difficult situations when referring patients, with procedures such as cataract surgery, IVF, physiotherapy, tonsillectomy and knee and hip replacements being heavily restricted or not available at all through many PCTs, as recently reported in the news(3).
Recent reports(4) suggest waiting times in the NHS have become longer or patients are ‘re-categorised’ so trusts can meet current waiting time requirements. Patient waiting times within Bath and the surrounding areas are reported as approximately 21 weeks(5) for most treatments.
Rod Mason, Executive Director of BMI Bath Clinic says, “As this survey shows, patients are being forced to consider how they will be treated and how they will pay for their healthcare. There are a number of reasons for this, coupled with the reforms and the ever increasing restrictions, it is essential patients understand what options they have to access healthcare outside of the NHS.
“We already know patients don’t always remember to ask their GP all the important questions about their care and treatment. Coupled with the increasing pressure on GPs to consider restrictions and referral requirements, it is important patients gather all the information they need to make an informed decision about their healthcare.
“To help patients with these complex decisions, we have developed a patient guide – questions to ask the GP about the condition, alternative options and what they can do to find further information about the treatment they need.”
With the impending NHS structural changes about to come into force, it is increasingly clear that both patients and GPs need clarity about what treatments are available and what options patients have if they cannot be treated on the NHS. Responsibility lies with all healthcare providers, both private and public to ensure patients receive the quality healthcare they need.
Patient checklists are available for you to download, please click on the relevant link below:
Methodology Note: ComRes conducted a survey of 1,005 GPs practising in the UK online, between 18th and 24th April 2012. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Data tables can be found at www.comres.co.uk.
Please feel free to click on the assets below to get a copy.
(1) Results taken from area covered by South West Strategic Health Authority – 93 GPs surveyed from this region
(2) See www.comres.co.uk for data tables
Performancedataandstatistics/ReferraltoTreatmentstatistics/index.htm - Data from April 2012: 95th percentile waiting time (in weeks), 95th percentile times are calculated from aggregate data, rather than patient level data, and therefore are only estimates of the position on average waits. This is a statistical measure of the RTT waiting times distribution. The 95th percentile waiting time is the time that 95% of patients waited less than (and 5% of patients waited more).