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Referral journey

Advances in medicine mean that recommendations for treatment have changed over the last ten years. But the referral process – from a patient’s first concerns to an appointment with a specialist who can make a detailed diagnosis – has altered very little.

There’s a great deal of variation in the way GPs make referrals. We think few patients would query a GP’s recommendation. In fact, most GPs (62%) believed they were completely in control of the referral process.

Given the emphasis on transparency in recent years, a surprisingly low number of GPs (15%) believed their patients were the decision-makers at the point of referral. However, as part of the Competition Commission’s investigation into the supply and acquisition of private healthcare services in this country, the referral process is undergoing close scrutiny.

  • On average, GPs are giving 78% of patients an open referral – but most patients can’t compare the quality or cost of a treatment. We think they may be selecting a referral pathway based on convenience alone.

We asked GPs to think about private referrals, and tell us which conditions proved to be most challenging. As with last year’s survey, GPs told us that they were still struggling to refer patients on for more specialist insights to Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).

Over a period of ten years, these are still the number one conditions that GPs find most challenging to refer on for specialist attention – but the most alarming fact here, is these are the two conditions that GPS most expect the NHS to stop covering in the next five years. These are still in the top ten conditions GPs are seeing on the increase, but 42% of GPs thought the NHS would no longer provide services for ME and CFS by 2015.

Find out how many GPs offer a range of hospitals and specialists to patients.
Download our 2013 Health of the Nation report now (PDF 3,622KB)

WC01514 07/2013