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‘One in five’ patient referrals bounced back to GPs, warns watchdog

A new report has condemned ‘serious issues’ with NHS referral processes, amid findings that one in five patient referrals made by GPs went into a ‘black hole’.

Healthwatch England said that 21% of people they spoke to with a GP referral to another NHS service were rejected, not followed up on or sent back to general practice.

The watchdog said that more support should be given to help GP and hospital teams to reduce the numbers of people returning to general practice due to ‘communication failures’ following a referral.

According to the findings, the failures were due to GP teams not sending referrals, referrals going missing between services, or being either booked or rejected by hospitals without any communication.

Louise Ansari, Healthwatch England’s national director, said that thousands of people told the watchdog that the process is ‘far from straightforward.’

She said: "Falling into this “referrals black hole” is not just frustrating for patients but ultimately means people end up going back to their GP or visiting crowded A&E departments to get the help they need.

"This adds more burden to already stretched services, making things even harder for the doctors and nurses trying to provide care."

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Source: Pulse, 20 February 2023


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