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.

 


Now GP as an Employee Benefit – How We Save You Money

In his latest blog, our Founder & CEO Lee Dentith looks at the growing costs of private medical plans and how Now GP can act as a second point of call – which could save businesses and insurers substantial amounts of time and money.

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New data compiled by Aon Hewitt has revealed some rather bleak predictions for the world of traditional employer-funded medical cover. Costs are expected to increase by 9.3% in the UK in 2016, and after a 7.8% rise last year, these figures are becoming more and more unmanageable.

As employer’s costs rise, it’s going to become increasingly important for insurers to discover and develop new ways of reducing the number of patient referrals to consultants and hospitals. However, this isn’t easy – medical costs would appear to be escalating globally due to our population ageing and our overall declining health.

Through the Now GP mobile health app and its innovative business integration, we’ve worked tirelessly to help reduce the costs associated with employee healthcare and to transform the world of private medical cover.

Recently, Now Healthcare Group conducted an anonymous survey of over 250 NHS GPs. We found that they are 60% more likely to refer patients to hospitals and “private” consultants knowing that the client is covered by a private medical insurance scheme – and that the NHS isn’t going to be held responsible when it comes to paying for any treatment, tests or examinations.

Our concern at Now GP is that a significant number of these issues are primary care concerns that can be diagnosed without the need for a private referral – we want to ensure that only patients who actually require treatment are referred, for the benefit of themselves, their insurance and healthcare providers, and their employer.

Now GP blood test

 

The Now GP platform can be used by businesses to help stop such unnecessary referrals and save a significant amount of money and time. We can act as a second point of call for those patients who have been referred by a GP – in a large number of cases, our video consultations with MRCGP-certified doctors can provide patients with the diagnosis they need without the need for further referral to a hospital, clinic or surgery.

These second examinations are invaluable when it comes to saving insurance companies money, with premiums at an all time high for patients who are referred. Even if the second consultation with a Now GP GP reveals that treatment or tests are needed, in a large number of cases we can help with this, too – we offer the delivery of medicines from our sister company Now Pharmacy and can even offer remote based blood testing to patients. With the results then delivered to them face to face via our app, we can often give patients the treatment and test results they need without them setting foot in their private hospital or clinic.

This helps to keep costs down for insurers, and also saves productivity time for the employer – the patient doesn’t need to take time off work to have tests, and is even able to have a consultation directly from their office via smartphone. We’ve made it our aim to plug the gap left by traditional private healthcare policies, helping employees to get better quickly whilst providing their employer with a convenient, practical solution to staff sickness – something which currently costs our nation’s businesses a staggering £29 billion each year. For more information on what we could do for your business and to learn more about Now GP as an employee benefit, get in touch with us today.


You can read more of Lee’s thoughts on LinkedIn and Twitter.