Private referrals are on the rise as NHS attempts to cut costs

CEO & Founder of Now GP’s parent company Now Healthcare Group, Lee Dentith, discusses the latest healthcare news in his regular blog. Today’s piece concerns a notable rise in private referrals as doctors are encouraged to ask patients about insurance.

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Something that myself and my colleagues at Now Healthcare Group have spoken about profusely in recent months is the clear correlation between the NHS’ continued financial difficulties and a rise in referrals from GPs to the private sector. Yesterday, in a news article from Pulse, it was confirmed that some CCGs in England are actively encouraging patients to consider using their private health insurance in a bid to cut costs for the NHS, and that referrals are on the rise as a result.

NHS Mid Essex CCG has seen a 6% year-on-year increase in referrals to private healthcare services since practices were contacted and asked to discuss their private insurance options with patients. NHS Basildon and Brentwood CCG, meanwhile, has also introduced a new “Private healthcare; another patient choice” scheme in what is an openly-admitted bid to cut costs.

I found the Readers’ Comments section of this article particularly interesting, with an anonymous GP partner admitting that they are more likely to refer patients privately when they know insurers are picking up the bill:

“When I have a patient with a hernia, or varicose vein I’m not going to refer them on the NHS but as soon as they say they have insurance I’m no longer the gate-keeper.”

We now have tangible evidence that certain GPs and practices will refer patients privately to save money for the NHS, which of course, is bad news for private medical insurance companies who will see premiums rise.

I spoke to my colleague Dr. Andrew Thornber (who is our Clinical Director here at NHG) about the news, and he admitted that this kind of behaviour is commonplace across NHS practices. He said:

“Actively encouraging patients to use their private medical insurance and placing financial considerations above the clinical needs of patients is, in my opinion, setting a very dangerous precedent. Patients should be seen and assessed purely on clinical grounds and subsequent decisions, regarding investigation and treatment pathways, should be based on best medical practice and in accordance with local and national guidelines.”

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The aforementioned CCGs have attempted to justify these actions by emphasising that they are only posing such questions “simply to highlight the option for the patient to make a considered choice but by no way impeding on their ability to choose.” However, the figures speak for themselves, and this increase in often unnecessary referrals will undoubtedly not sit well with private medical insurance companies.

We’re currently working with select insurers to help eradicate this kind of unnecessary expense, and yesterday’s news shows exactly why more and more private medical insurance companies are turning to mHealth platforms such as our Dr Now / Now GP mobile app.

Although our doctors are all qualified NHS GPs in their own right, whilst they are working for Now Healthcare Group they are treated as independent – they are not pressured by the NHS or CCGs to cut costs or adhere to budgets and are able to treat the patient’s wellbeing and healthcare as their top priority. By utilising our mobile healthcare services, PMIs are able to provide patients with convenient, accessible care and also avoid paying out for often unnecessary referrals.


You can read more of my thoughts on LinkedIn (Mr Lee Dentith), and you can also follow me on Twitter.

 


4 Million Now Queue for Same-Day Appointments

In this week’s blog, Lee Dentith – CEO and Founder of Now Healthcare Group – looks at yet more worrying statistics concerning primary healthcare access in the UK.

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The winter flu season may finally be over, but sadly the pressure on NHS surgeries continues to mount. Another day, another series of statistics revealed from a rather damning survey of over 9,000 UK patients from across the country.

What stood out most to me was the fact that the number of people forced to physically queue for an appointment at their local NHS surgery has risen to an astonishing FOUR MILLION. Elderly and unwell patients are, in some cases, forced to queue outside the surgery doors in order to get seen on the same day – some are arriving at surgeries at daybreak and still face waits of several hours.

Our surgeries are often so overwhelmed by demand that they are routinely asking patients to wait outside, with those in the Patients Association condemning the situation as unacceptable – prolonging the suffering and discomfort of those who are often in urgent need of medical help.

When it comes to appointment waiting times, the numbers simply continue to get worse and worse – immigration, a shortage of doctors and an increasingly-ageing population are three major contributing factors for why patients in this country are continuing to suffer. The current model of healthcare in the UK just isn’t working, and the stats revealed from this latest survey make this simply undeniable.

Of 9,116 patients surveyed – all of which were in their over 50s – 33% said that they were unable to secure an appointment with a GP within seven days. Incredibly, up to two million are forced to wait for three weeks or more for an appointment, while many patients are routinely made to wait over one month just to see a doctor.

It’s not just the actual appointments which patients are queuing for, either – surgeries receive countless calls each morning from patients requesting to be seen, with many on hold for anywhere between 20 minutes to one hour.

A news article looks in depth at these figures, focusing on surgeries in South England which have become notorious for their lengthy waiting times. North Street Medical Centre (Romford, Essex) allegedly sees as many as 50 people queueing outside of the surgery doors each morning with receptionists admitting that patients “struggle to get a seat” when they do eventually make it into the waiting room. Another surgery in South East London sees queues which are 30-strong with patients regularly waiting up to two and a half hours to be seen.

The Royal College of GPs has pointed towards a shortage of doctors as a major reason for this, with nine in ten surgeries now forced to rely on locums because they are so short of permanent GPs.

To be frank, things need to change and they need to change now. The NHS system continues to creak under continued pressure, and it’s a system which is failing to attract new doctors and one which is also failing its patients.

Our vision as an mHealth organisation is to provide patients and GPs with a much-needed alternative. Our platform embraces flexible working hours for doctors to help them enjoy working in healthcare once again. We give patients the chance to speak to a MRCGP-certified doctor within a ten minute window via smartphone-based video call. We can even arrange for you to have your medicines delivered to your home or work address.

As a nation we need to think about the way we access and offer healthcare and think differently and smarter. We have the technology in place to ensure that patients aren’t forced to physically queue for appointments – it’s archaic and there is no place for it in today’s on-the-go society. It’s time for change, and it’s time to embrace mHealth.


Now GP Makes Two Senior Appointments

The innovative mHealth company welcomes a new COO and CTO following its recent relocation to Manchester’s MediaCityUK.

Now GP and Now Healthcare Group are delighted to announce the appointment of two new senior staff members following our recent expansion and move to Manchester’s MediaCityUK. We are able to confirm the appointment of Ian Ronald as Chief Operating Officer (COO), as well as the arrival of Tim Ng as Chief Technology Officer (CTO).

Ian Ronald arrives at Now Healthcare Group as an experienced operator of retail and consumer businesses including BP, Pizza Hut, Scholastic, Tastecard and The Wine Society. He is an expert in business strategy and development, revenue growth and operational improvement. He is responsible for delivering the Now GP service to the high standards set by Now Healthcare Group as a company.

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Ian Ronald, COO of Now GP

Ian’s experience covers several sectors, including financial technology, restaurants, children’s books and fine wines. His role will see him remain focused on what the customer – the Now GP patient – requires and the best ways in which this can be achieved through our mHealth service.

Tim Ng boasts a wealth of experience, having been a leader of technology teams in a variety of settings for over 16 years. His CV includes previous employment at companies including Fujitsu/ICL, Latitude Group, threeSixty Services LLP (Standard Life) and tech start-up company Property Moose.

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Tim Ng has also joined as CTO

A number of core platforms developed by Tim have been integrated with large scale enterprise systems and web API frameworks with Overture (Yahoo), Google and MIVA. His role at Now Healthcare Group will see him oversee the continued development and innovation of the Now GP mHealth platforms and applications.

The appointments come at an exciting time for Now GP, with new business clients and further exciting opportunities soon to be announced in the New Year, as Now Healthcare Group continues to establish itself as the world’s premier mobile health organisation.

Founder and CEO of Now Healthcare Group and Now GP, Lee Dentith, made the following statement:

“We are thrilled to welcome both Tim and Ian to the business, with these appointments further showing our ambition as a company as we head into 2016. Our commitment to providing patients with an effective healthcare solution will continue into the New Year, and with Ian and Tim both on board we’re confident that we can continue our fantastic progress and make further strides as a business. ”