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GPs told to ration cancer scans

8th September 2011

Primary Care Trusts are closely examining the number of patients GP practices are sending for examinations.

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Evidence suggests that some 25% of PCTs are either investigating how many patients individual GP practices send for examinations or looking for ways to reduce the numbers.

Some are also identifying “excessive” use of the tests or setting upper targets while others have completely stopped letting doctors have direct access to the scans.

The investigation was conducted by GP magazine with findings suggesting that trusts want to reduce the number of patients sent directly to tests at specialist centres in order to save money.

It surveyed 116 PCTs and 28% said they had either started looking into how many referrals GPs carried out across their area, or were planning to do so.

There are now fears patients will be diagnosed later with conditions such as cancer, which will reduce survival chances.

Head of the Royal College of GPs, Dr Clare Gerada, said: “This is about money and finances driving behaviour by the PCT – not about putting patients first.”

Cancer Research UK echoed the concerns and said it was worried to hear of PCTs setting referral targets and decommissioning direct access to tests that could speed up a cancer diagnosis.

It comes as new data shows that patients who are referred now have to wait longer.

Latest Department of Health figures show that 10,700 patients were waiting more than six weeks for any one of 15 key diagnostic tests at the end of July, a rise of 7,000 on the previous year.

 

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