Are you waiting for NHS treatment?

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Is NHS Restricting scans

and tests?


All over Britain people are waiting – and waiting – for referral letters for tests, scans and treatment.

Are these delays a cynical way to extend payment times?

By the time you get your long-awaited appointment, the fee for this will  probably be charged to next year’s budget.


Recent press articles show a quarter of PCTs are looking at ways they can reduce the numbers of patients GPs send for extra investigations. Several are also setting upper limits for “excessive” use of tests, while others have blocked GPs from directly referring patients for tests.

Looking at the mass of emails I receive,  showing results of surveys, etc.  extracts from the deluge showed that

  • of the 116 Primary Care Trusts contacted, 28% said they had either started looking into how many referrals GPs carried out across their area, or were planning to do so
  • A quarter are helping practices reduce ‘inappropriate’ access
  • Nine Trusts said they had found surgeries that either sent too many or too few patients for tests
  • Two Trusts are considering introducing upper and lower targets
  • Five PCTs have scrapped direct access altogether to at least one type of test.

If you want evidence, Google the above lines – and you will get it in spades.

Royal College of GPs are worried

Dr Claire Gerada, Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) criticised the move saying, “This is about money and finances driving behaviour by the PCT – not about putting patients first.”  And yet isn’t it their members that stand to gain if GPs have access to commissioning?

Call me naive, but when I can’t even get an appointment with my usual GP, and end up seeing a Locum who tells me that they are going to have to cut down on drugs, etc – yet are spending a huge amount of senior GP time bidding for the new consortia – it does raise questions in my mind.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, a senior member of the British Medical Association (BMA) has also commented saying that restricting access to scans risks “turning back the clock” on plans to diagnose disease early. He said, “An intelligent approach would be to have guidelines for appropriate use of diagnostics and incorporate them into the pathway.”

Patients should have tests needed

Yet more evidence that the cuts to NHS funding are beginning to have a detrimental effect on services for patients. GPs should not have to be in the business of rationing out referrals for tests. If patients need tests, they should be able to access them when they need them and not be forced to wait while the GP’s referral quota is renewed. Early diagnosis is important for many diseases including cancer, and delaying diagnosis could have dire consequences.

It happened to me

Last winter I might – just might – have had a return of cancer.  I was OK in my mind, but all signs pointed to needing a rapid diagnosis.  But delays, missing letters, doctors not available, referral letters not sent, and most important of all – the ommission of the word ‘cancer’ (for which my doctor spent half an hour apologising) meant a wait from October to January.  So if it happened to me – what about others?

I still haven’t been able to get my head around the fact that when I complain, I am told that “not to worry, we can deal with it” is supposed to reassure me.  But I don’t want to end up as another statistic trotted out by La La Lansley when he tries to blame us for not coming forward early enough for cancer disagnosis.  Cynical manipulation I call it.

The Department of Health must ensure that tests are not rationed, and that funding and resources are in place to ensure all patients have access to the care they need.

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