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31-07-2011 | General practice | Article

PCTs ‘deliberately delay care’

Abstract

Co-operation and Competition Panel Review of the operation of ‘any willing provider’ for the provision of routine elective care

Some Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) are making patients wait at least 15 weeks for elective care in order to save money, a Co-operation and Competition Panel report has revealed.

According to the report into use of 'Any Willing Provider', some managers indicated that imposing a minimum wait can save money because patients will "remove themselves from the patient list". The Panel interprets this as patients being taken off lists "either by dying or by paying for their own treatment at private sector providers".

The report identified further practices that its authors say excessively limit patient choice, such as use of referral management centres to distort the referral process and guiding GPs to refer to certain providers, as well as placing caps on referrals and using block contracts and "implicit threats of non-payment".

Lord Carter of Coles, the Panels' chair, commented: "Commissioners have a difficult job in the current financial climate, but patients' rights are often being restricted without a valid and visible reason. Crucially, it is the lack of transparency that surrounds certain restrictions on patient choice that is of real concern."

The Panel calls on commissioners to review their practices and lays out several recommendations for future clinical commissioning groups.

David Stout, director of the NHS Confederation's Primary Care Trust Network, welcomed the Panel's call for commissioners to be able to show that restrictions offer better value for money for taxpayers, or benefits to patients. But he said the report did not prove that current PCT decisions are not justifiable, adding that future policies need clarification.

"Unless these issues are addressed, commissioners will continue to make decisions on occasions which to some extent restrict patient choice."

GP News is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By Caroline Price