MP's anger over referral delays

PUBLISHED: 09:42 13 March 2006 | UPDATED: 08:58 24 May 2010

PATIENTS are having to wait longer for treatment because GP referrals are being deliberately held back by health chiefs, says Weston's MP. John Penrose says North Somerset Primary Care Trust (PCT) is holding on to referrals made by GPs to hospitals for up

PATIENTS are having to wait longer for treatment because GP referrals are being deliberately held back by health chiefs, says Weston's MP.John Penrose says North Somerset Primary Care Trust (PCT) is holding on to referrals made by GPs to hospitals for up to four weeks because of its financial problems.Under the referral system, the PCT collects GP referrals through the Referral Management Centre, which should pass them on to the hospitals immediately.But Mr Penrose says referrals made in January were not passed on until February, with the same delay happening the following month.The PCT confirms that it is delaying making non-urgent referrals from GPs for a month but the Weston & Somerset Mercury understands a mother-of-two with skin cancer has also had treatment delayed.The woman, who is in her 40s and lives in the Weston area, was diagnosed with a re-occurrence of skin cancer on February 2. A GP letter was sent to a consultant the following day. When the family heard nothing, Weston General Hospital was contacted on February 22. Officials confirmed no referral had been received and that the letter must still be held at the Referral Management Centre.Even though the GP faxed a copy of the original letter with an urgent request for an appointment, as of March 7 the woman was still waiting.The PCT says all patients are still being seen within the 13 week target time from the date of the original letter and this is a short term measure. Cancer sufferers and children are not being affected, it says.Mr Penrose has raised the issue in a letter to the Health Minister, Patricia Hewitt.He said: "This is all about saving money rather than caring for patients. The PCT is not to blame as it has to dance to the Government's tune.

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