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Referral Patterns

Volume 114: debated on Wednesday 8 April 1987

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will consult the Royal College of General Practitioners as to whether referral patterns can be changed to make maximum use of new hospital facilities provided in recent years.

General medical practitioners usually prefer to refer their patients to hospitals conveniently situated, but they may refer to any National Health Service hospital consultant able to accept them. Referral patterns and waiting lists are amongst the topics currently being discussed with the medical profession.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what are his proposals for reducing cross-boundary patient flows in the context of resource allocation policy.

Our policy is to distribute resources more fairly across the country so as to ensure equal opportunity of access to health care for people in equal need. We expect regions to follow the same principles in planning services and allocating resources across their districts.Patterns of patient flows across health authority boundaries will change and in many cases may reduce as this process continues, but the pace and extent of such changes will depend on local circumstances. District self-sufficiency is not an aim; patient flows will continue for specialist treatment, or where natural catchment areas of hospitals or other facilities do not exactly match health authority boundaries. In addition, general medical practitioners remain free to refer patients to the hospital consultant of their choice.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what is the estimated number of patients treated in hospitals in the London borough of Hillingdon referred by general medical practitioners in practice in the boroughs of Watford, Harrow and Ealing and in the counties of Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire; and what additional financial resources are received by Hillingdon district health authority to take account of these cross-boundary flows.

Information about hospital referrals by general medical practitioners is not collated centrally.My hon. Friend may wish to contact the chairman of the Hillingdon district health authority for any information about the location of practices of general medical practitioners referring patients to hospitals in the district, and the chairman of the North West Thames regional health authority, which is responsible for resource allocation to individual districts. The general principle followed by regional health authorities is that district funding takes account of cross-boundary flows of patients.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services (1) if he will consult the North West Thames regional health authority about the extent to which general medical practitioners in the boroughs of Ealing, Watford and Harrow and in the counties of Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire are encouraged to refer patients to consultants in the hospitals that have been newly provided in their boroughs and counties in recent years;(2) if he will make it his policy to seek to ensure that regional health authorities in the Thames regions consult their respective family practitioner committees with a view to achieving a change in referral patterns so that patients can take advantage of the facilities provided by the National Health Service in the boroughs and districts in which they are resident.

We encourage regional and district health authorities to consult family practitioner committees and local medical commitees with the aim of encouraging general medical practitioners to make the most appropriate referrals for their patients bearing in mind the needs of individual patients and the location and availability of appropriate services.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will review the extent of the interim relief money recently allocated to Hillingdon district health authority to take account of cross-boundary flows.

Hillingdon district health authority has been awarded £450,000 from the £2·6 million allocated to North West Thames regional health authority. This allocation was from a special fund of £30 million over two years designed to assist regions with less than average growth.Decisions on how the £2·6 million should be distributed to districts were a matter for North West Thames regional health authority.