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Go ahead to refer patients back to their GP

12 April 2006

HBDHB Board gives go ahead to refer patients back to their GP

Hawke’s Bay District Health Board members today voted in favour of a proposal that will result in around 1,800 people being told they won’t get to see a specialist doctor at a HBDHB facility.

Hawke’s Bay District Health Board currently has a total of 4,870 people waiting for their first appointment with a specialist. The Ministry of Health has set clear expectations for DHBs to ensure people are seen within six months, and we are unable to deliver on this time-frame.

“We find ourselves in a difficult situation, whereby people are expecting to get an appointment, and in most cases would benefit from seeing a specialist. We have actually increased the numbers of patients being seen in outpatients, but unfortunately we are not able to provide everything to everybody due to increasing numbers of referrals coming in and a fixed capacity of our staff, facilities and funding,” said Chris Clarke, chief executive officer.

“Already this year, we have seen 700 more people in outpatient clinics than we budgeted for.

“At the moment there are 904 people who have been waiting over six months to see a specialist and a further 877 people who are regarded as lower clinical priority patients. Both these groups of people will be taken off our waiting lists and referred back to their GP for ongoing management of their condition.

“Our responsibility is to ensure those in the greatest need receive care first, and regrettably this means these patients with lower clinical priority are not being seen. We believe it’s better to let them know where they stand now, rather than letting them sit indefinitely on a waiting list without any hope of ever getting seen,” Mr Clarke said.

If there are people whose health has significantly deteriorated since they were first referred to see a specialist, their GP can re-refer them if they believe their patient’s clinical priority has changed.

“It is important to point out that urgent, high priority cases are being seen in outpatients sometimes within days or a week, and semi-urgent cases are also being seen in good time, however, it’s those with lower clinical priorities who are missing out.

“I would like to reassure anyone who already has an appointment that they are not affected by this Board decision. Existing outpatient appointments will still stand,” Mr Clarke said.

Elective surgery bookings are not affected by this decision. Those affected are people who have been waiting over six months for a first appointment with a specialist, or are regarded as having a lower clinical priority (based on information provided by their GP at the time of referral) when compared to other people with similar conditions.

Chris Clarke said letters would be sent to those patients whose names were being removed from the outpatients waiting list before the end of May.

“I acknowledge the fact that this news is likely to cause upset for many people who would benefit from seeing a specialist, however, our aim is to ensure that people receive an honest and clear indication from us regarding their access to see a specialist,” Mr Clarke said.

The DHB has set up a toll-free information line for anyone wanting to check their status on the outpatients waiting list. The number is 0800 000 340. A staff member will be available from 8:30am – 4:30pm answer any questions. A message can be left after hours, and staff will return their call within 48 hours.


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