GPs will always put the needs of the patient first, says RCGP in response to research study on the 'gatekeeping' role of general practice in the NHS

Publication date: 26 March 2019

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, has responded to a new BJGP study on gatekeeping in healthcare.

She said: "Gatekeeping schemes play a significant role in the triaging of patients in the NHS and beyond, and as this study shows, GPs worldwide are doing an excellent job of caring for patients in their communities, close to home, and keeping people out of hospital wherever possible.

"Unlike most other healthcare systems around the world, the NHS is free at the point of need and so financial implications do not play any role in the gatekeeping function of UK GPs – most of the studies included in this systematic review were based in the US.

"While it's clear to see why UK GPs are often called the 'gatekeepers of the NHS', we will always put the needs of the individual patient first and refer anyone who we think might need secondary care intervention. However, this research also highlights a chronic lack of access to diagnostic tests in primary care, which can have a huge bearing on referral rates for conditions such as cancer.

"GPs take cancer diagnosis extremely seriously, and it's credit to our colleagues' hard work that 75% of patients found to have cancer in the UK are referred after only one or two consultations, and that in the last five years the proportion of cancers diagnosed as an emergency dropped from 25% to 20%.

"Without access to the right diagnostic tests, however, this simply isn't sustainable and threatens the success of GP gatekeeping schemes across the country. That's why we desperately need GPs and our teams to have better access to high-quality diagnostic tools in the community, and the appropriate training to use them."

Further Information

RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7633/7574/7575
Out of hours: 0203 188 7659
press@rcgp.org.uk

Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 52,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.

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