GPs sell out

I’m sorry that this important newsitem from the BMJ is behind a paywall, but I’ll put up the really important bits.

The political imperative is now to get GPs to commission care. One way of ‘saving money’ (if you are interested in short term, shallow, non clinical outcomes) is allegedly to deal with  GP referrals via a ‘referral management centre’ the purpose of which is to avoid seeing patients. Or to get patients seen but not by specialist doctors. Or to make is so hard for patients to get seen that they give up trying to do so. (That may sound harsh, but it is the bottom line.)

So I’m worried that one of the first bursts of GP commissing has led not just to a referral management centre, but in partnership with a private non NHS company.

“Concerns have been raised over an early deal signed between one of the new pathfinder GP commissioning consortiums and the private firm UnitedHealth UK. The referral management deal with UnitedHealth UK has been jointly agreed by the NHS Hounslow primary care trust and the London based Great West Commissioning Consortium. The trust said that this was an innovative new service to support GPs in their new role as commissioners and to improve the quality of referrals….”

The thing is, GPs ARE ‘referral management centres’ – except ones with the patient in front of them. If ‘patient choice’ and ‘patient autonomy’ are to mean anything at all, it should mean doctors and patients working together in the consulting room – not referrals farmed out far away to unanswerable administrators.

GPs and private firms involved are taking money for this commissioning task. Does it actually save money anyway? No, say the King’s Fund.

The mainstay of the current referral system is not designed to benefit patients or doctors but targets. I’m disappointed that GPs have chosen to make it worse.

3 Responses to “GPs sell out”

  1. Am Ang Zhang January 12, 2011 at 5:00 pm #

    I have written a few posts on the matter. More doctors need to know that the likes of UnitedHealth is there to make money for shareholder

  2. Am Ang Zhang January 12, 2011 at 5:08 pm #

    Also, govt. money is the easiest money to make. It is sad that there is this covert rationing going on and if the US Medicare is experiencing major wastage through fraud and unnecessary treatment, the UK (England, sorry) will experience the same. Unfortunately, the lure of dividends from Health Co. for the GPs that signed up is just too much. The public needs to know they are getting a raw deal. If someone is making money from the whole pot, what does that mean!!!

  3. The Jobbing Doctor January 13, 2011 at 12:38 pm #

    There is very little enthusiasm for the latest changes, which are being railroaded through by Government, Media and a few zealous GPs.
    Most of us think it will not achieve anything except the break-up of the NHS and the shifting of blames.