I am disappointed by your coverage of the GP referral scheme – I feel you have created a false and negative impression without disclosing the full facts for readers. This has a very real possibility to damaging trust and confidence between GPs and patients which the fabric of General Practice is built upon.
You state “NHS Coastal West Sussex CCG has offered to give groups of practices working together in its area 50% of savings made from GPs referring fewer patients for dermatology care, ear, nose and throat treatment in the community, and minor surgery and wound closure”
You follow this up with several negative quotes from senior GP’s. This gives the impression that the money will be given to GPs in the form of pay. This is not the case – it has to be held and used for new patient services that the local GP group identify. No GP surgery will benefit from this money – it will be spent on improving patient care. An example being talked about is employing physio directly to work with practices to keep patients healthy and allow them access to early treatment which otherwise there would be a delay. The money has not yet been released and so far just exists in the form of savings within the local health economy which it badly needs.
In addition, the money is not saved from restricting treatments as you suggest – it is saved from closer community treatments, which are often cheaper and quicker and GPs themselves putting in extra work to give treatments at the surgery.
Examples could be GP’s putting on extra clinics for cryotherapy clinics, extra clinics for minor surgery or pain relieving injections which the local GPs can do, or utilising local GP skills in other surgeries, rather than adding someone to a long and expensive waiting list. This extra work often means that selected patients can be treated more easily, more quickly and more cheaply. This saves valuable money for other services, which as you know are in dire need.
Unfortunately in these constrained financial times GP as the primary medical service which provides 90% of face to face contacts need to work collectively, creatively and even harder to maintain the NHS overall.
The Guardian have been asked to amend the article to have some balance as soon as possible to ensure there is no damage to the patient GP relationships based on an inaccurate representation of a genuine attempt to improve patient care for our patients.
Dr Tom Kirk