Bypassing your GP – self referral, good idea?

The Labour leader, Kier Starmer, in a piece published by the Telegraph and on the BBC last weekend said his party was going to tackle “bureaucratic nonsense” in the NHS and argued that people should be able to self-refer to a physiotherapist for back pain or to order a test for “internal bleeding” rather than having to see a GP.

The reaction on social media and in subsequent media articles was swift, with many medics appalled at the idea wondering if Starmer had actually spoken to any doctors. However, this opinion was by no means universal.

Dr Martin Brunet, a GP and medical educator from Guildford, said on Twitter: ‘Self-referral to specialists is a terrible idea. This is because primary care and secondary have a totally different approach since we see a different cohort of patients.”

In contrast Ed Turnham, a GP partner based in Norfolk, wrote on Twitter on why self-referral is possible in certain situations and if the right technology is used.

Although the NHS has developed over the years with the GP gatekeeping system in place and referrals from GPs being the only way to access a specialist, there are some notable exceptions, we self-refer for hearing tests and eyesight tests.

Full article in The Lowdown, 19 January 2023