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Friday 25th May 2018

Patients not choosing hospitals

29th May 2009

An investigation has revealed that government moves to encourage GPs to offer patients a greater choice of hospital in many parts of the country is proving irrelevant.


GP magazine Pulse discovered that only 6.4% of referrals in the past financial year were for patients travelling from outside hospitals’ normal catchment areas.

For some rural hospitals that figure was as low as 3.5%.

The journal analysed data from 84 hospital trusts in England, obtaining the statistics under Freedom of Information legislation.

The information shows that patients exercising the right to choose their hospital had more than doubled since 2004/05 but from a low base.

And there appeared “no correlation between patient choice and clinical quality, with little evidence patients are being guided by ratings of services.”

In the case of Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, which was recently shown as providing appalling patient care by the Healthcare Commission, its out-of-area referrals jumped by 122% between 2004/05 and 2008/09, just above the average of 114%.

Hospitals that were more financially efficient and adept at marketing had experienced greater success in persuading GPs and patients to choose their services.

Health minister Ben Bradshaw told Pulse the analysis suggested patient choice in England was working.

However, GPC negotiator Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: “The whole choice agenda is of very little meaning to patients and GPs in rural areas. It’s no surprise the quality of hospital and patient flows do not match.

“We’ve always argued the government should put more effort into improving quality of services in hospitals, rather than relying on market forces.”


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