The changing relationship between GPs and consultants
Yorkshire Knee Clinic’s Nick London explains why maintaining strong working relationships between our knee consultants and GPs has become more difficult.
We’ve come through a winter during which the pressure on the NHS has been a nightly news feature. When resources have been stretched as perhaps they’ve never been stretched before. And where, as a consequence, GPs and consultants have had to work hard to maintain the connections between them as the system imposes greater distance.
It wasn’t always like this.
Historically, the NHS and private practice were very closely linked. GPs got to know individual consultants’ practices. They were well acquainted with the performance outcomes of the knee (and other) specialists in their ‘patch’ and would be able and willing to recommend particular consultants if patients asked.
This wasn’t in some halcyon, sepia tinted yesteryear. In fact, it wasn’t all that long ago at all. Yet the pace of change and the added pressures throughout the health service meant things needed to change. So instead of GPs making direct referrals to surgeons they knew and trusted, the process was pooled.
When resources are finite, there is a logic to this. Pooling referrals ensures that any minute element of slack within the system is used up. It prevents one specialist being deluged by referrals while another is less busy. In terms of administering a complex system, it makes sense. But in terms of personal relationships, there’s a consequence.
Inevitably, relationships have changed a little. Because they no longer make direct referrals, GPs are no longer quite as aware as they once were of an individual knee surgeon’s performance. That’s hardly their fault – it’s just a natural consequence of a shift in the system.
Yet the majority of Yorkshire Knee Clinic patients still reach us via GP referral, and each of our knee consultants feels it remains important to maintain close ties with local GPs. Has the flow of information between knee specialists and GPs diminished? Yes, most definitely, but we and our colleagues in general practice are working hard to ensure that there remains as strong a working relationship between primary and secondary care as possible.
Because in the end, the person who benefits most from closer relationships is you, the patient, and anyone else who expects to enjoy the highest standards of joined up care in treating their knee pain.
If you are experiencing knee pain, talk to the consultants at Yorkshire Knee Clinic. Contact us now.