NHS bodies are paying millions of pounds to private firms that stop patients being referred to hospital by their GP, an investigation has found.
NHS bodies are paying millions of pounds to private firms that stop patients being referred to hospital by their GP, an investigation has found. Controversial referral management centres are used by some clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) to scrutinise patient referrals to hospitals by family doctors.
In a new investigation, the British Medical Journal (BMJ) sent freedom of information requests to all 211 CCGs in England. Of 184 that responded, 72 (39%) said they currently commissioned some form of referral management scheme to help manage outpatient demand at their local hospitals.
Almost a third (32%) of the schemes are provided by private companies, while a further 29% are provided in house and 11% by local NHS trusts. Some 69% of CCGs with schemes gave details of operating costs. These CCGs combined have spent at least £57m on schemes since April 2013.
Most CCGs were unable to provide evidence showing the scheme saved money. Only 14% could show that the scheme had saved more cash than it had cost to operate, while 12% showed that their schemes had not saved money overall.
Meanwhile, 74% of CCGs (53 groups) failed to supply figures to show whether any money had been saved, the BMJ reported.
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