GPs waste 15 million appointments a year because of chaotic breakdowns in communication between their practice and hospitals, a damning report finds.
Patients are forced to return to their GP after becoming trapped in a ‘referral black hole’ or are ‘sent from pillar to post’, unclear who is responsible for their care.
The Policy Exchange think tank said the NHS needs to do more to manage care at the ‘intersection between GPs and hospitals’.
It warns that up to 150,000 people are in limbo, on ‘hidden’ waiting lists, after being referred to a consultant but not added to their records.
Patients are forced to return to their GP after becoming trapped in a ‘referral black hole’ or are ‘sent from pillar to post’, unclear who is responsible for their care
It means they are at risk of falling through the cracks, with their condition worsening without medical supervision.
Others are at risk of being harmed after being released from hospital and placed under the care of a primary care physician without proper drug checks, or when test results and scans are missing.
More than two million patients a year must make four or more visits to their primary care physician before a referral is accepted, according to the report “Medical Evolution.”
It calls for the development of hybrid doctor roles – ‘interface specialists’ – who can work more routinely between hospitals and GP practices.
Report author Dr David Landau said: ‘For too long the interface has been neglected as a key activity site and not proactively managed.
?Policy Exchange’s proposals ? including the development of dedicated roles that work across the interface ? should allow more people access to specialized support with shorter wait time and closer to home.
‘It is crucial that we want to see GPs recognized as specialists in their own right, and that we want to attract more research activities into primary and community care.’
GPs say their operations are overwhelmed by the pressures of a rising and aging population, a lack of government funding and a shortage of doctors. NHS statistics show that as of April 2023 there were 27,231 full-time equivalent fully qualified general practitioners working in the NHS in England. Full-time equivalents correspond to 37.5 hours per week
Graph shows the ratio between GP patients and practices since 2015, with an average of 9,755 patients per practice in May 2023