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Saturday 26th May 2018

Health targets risk patient safety

9th September 2006

Doctors' leaders say that government targets could be risking patient safety when consultants refer to other consultants.

Under the current system waiting-time targets relate only to waits from the point of GP referral; there are no targets for the maximum time a patient must wait if a consultant has referred them to another consultant. Trusts are putting consultant-to-consultant referrals 'on the back burner' while they attempt to meet targets on GP referrals, say doctors leaders.

They give examples of patients with eye conditions that could lead to blindness being put behind patients on the waiting list for cataract operations; patients wanting breast reduction surgery being seen more quickly if referred by their GP than patients referred by a breast surgeon for reconstruction; emergency departments being encouraged not to refer patients to specialists, but to refer them back to their GP first.

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