GPs face complete halt on all non-urgent referrals under CCG plans to cut costs

A north-west CCG is proposing to completely suspend all non-urgent GP referrals to local hospitals for up to fourth months in a drastic bid to balance its books.

The move by NHS St Helens CCG could see GPs blocked from referring any patients for non-urgent treatment over a winter period for a ‘maximum’ of four months, so that hospitals can concentrate on urgent referrals such as for suspected cancer and sick children.

It did not detail how it would block referrals, but said that any decision to not refer will be made in agreement by the patient and the GP.

The CCG – recently rated ‘inadequate’ by NHS England – admits the move ‘will not be popular’, but adds it is facing a £12.5m funding gap over the next year after a £3m overspend.

It has put together a two-year recovery plan to achieve the £12.5m savings this year and a further £17.5m next year – as well as the necessary 1% yearly budget surplus to meet the statutory duty to achieve financial balance.

As part of this, it has launched a consultation on a raft of measures – including the plan to pause referrals into the local hospitals – to ‘suspend, reduce or withdraw certain services’ in order to help close the funding gap.

Full story in Pulse 8 August 2016