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Study to show GP diagnostics programme leading to fewer ED referrals

By David Lynch - 01st May 2023

ed referrals

Data from an ongoing study of the GP access to diagnostics programme will show that it has led to a reduction in referrals to emergency departments (ED) and acute medical units, this newspaper understands.

The nationwide GP access to diagnostics programme began accepting referrals in 2021. This outsourced radiology service provides access to x-ray, CT, MRI, and DEXA scans through five private providers.

“The preliminary findings [of the reduction in ED referrals] were based on an initial analysis of the data collated during the study currently being conducted by the Irish College of General Practitioners,” a Department of Health spokesperson told the Medical Independent. The spokesperson added that “further work” was ongoing with regard to the preparation of the final report, which is expected to be available shortly.

The spokesperson said the expansion of the GP access to diagnostics initiative “to include provision of direct referral by GPs of their patients to access echocardiography, spirometry, and NT-proBNP blood tests in public laboratories is ongoing, with further capacity to come on stream during 2023”. 

The development of the GP programme was highlighted in the Sláintecare Progress Report 2022.

According to the progress report: “An encouraging first sign of the impact of this innovation is that, in a study currently being undertaken by the Irish College of General Practitioners, preliminary findings suggest that there is a reduction in referrals to emergency departments/acute medical units and a reduction in referrals to outpatient departments because of this initiative.

“Once the study is finalised and the results published, the impact of the initiative on referrals to acute settings will be demonstrated more clearly.”

According to the report, 251,601 scans of various modalities were completed in 2022. This was “a significant advance” on the total of 139,000 provided in 2021, and ahead of the target of 195,000 scans for 2022.

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