Press Release: Medical Referral Centres – waste and risk

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[Monday 16 January]

Keep Our NHS Public (KONP) is calling for the government to stop the payments to Referral Management Centres made for cancelling appointments immediately, and strongly questions their overriding purpose – which is to save money, not lives.

Referral Management Centres (RMCs) have been criticised for causing unnecessary delays to patient referrals from their GP [1], for purely administrative rather than clinical reasons. Some RMCs, which are privately commissioned, receive payments for every cancellation they authorise [2]. This is tantamount to incentivising delay and puts safety at risk. Far from making the NHS more efficient and ‘cutting down on waste’, such payments which reward cancellation are like running a ‘dead pool’, seeking to gain financially from the grave misfortune of others. It has no place in a publicly run health service and should be banned immediately.

KONP further calls into question the idea that RMCs are anything other than a mechanism to choke off secondary care simply to save money – thereby risking lives.

Dr John Lister is the Secretary of Keep Our NHS Public and is an authority on health policy:

“It’s appalling that even while NHS trusts are being forced into deficits to deliver services to patients, CCGs are wasting precious money on private companies whose sole job seems to be to obstruct the referral of patients by GPs for hospital services. There is little or no evidence that these centres deliver any clear benefit to patients, and if they employ health professionals these could be much better employed caring for patients rather than delaying care and denying GPs and patients the choices they are supposed to have.

“This is another symptom of the dysfunctional state of the NHS created by the 2012 Health and Social Care Act, which together with 6 years of frozen budgets has brought chaos to our health service reminiscent of the late 1980s. That’s why thousands will be protesting in London on March 4 [3] demanding a change of course.”



Editors’ Notes

Keep Our NHS Public was formed in 2005 and has a broad-based, public membership. There are over 75 local groups, and over 20 affiliated organisations plus a national association. It has the explicit aim of countering marketisation [4,5] and privatisation of the NHS by campaigning for a publicly funded, publicly provided and publicly accountable NHS, available to all on the basis of clinical need. It is opposed to cuts in service which run counter to these principles. Further details:


KONP’s Campaigns and Press Officer is Alan Taman:

07870 757 309

[email protected]



Facebook: Keep-Our-NHS-Public




[3] See for further details of the 4 March demonstration, London.

[4] Davis, J., Lister, J. and Wrigley, D. (2015) NHS For Sale. London: Merlin Press.

Leys, C. and Player, S. (2011) The Plot Against the NHS. Pontypool: Merlin

Lister, J. (2008) The NHS After 60: For Patients or Profits? London: Middlesex University Press

Owen, D. (2014) The Health of the Nation: The NHS in Peril. York: Methuen, Chapter 4.

Player, S. (2013) ‘Ready for market’. In NHS SOS ed by Davis, J. and Tallis, R. London: Oneworld, pp.38-61.


[5] The belief that ‘competition is always best’ does not work when applied to healthcare. A comprehensive and universal health service is best funded by public donation, which has been shown to be far more efficient overall than private-insurance healthcare models

[Davis, J., Lister, J. and Wrigley, D. (2015) NHS For Sale. London: Merlin Press. Chapters 2 and 8.

Lister, J. (2013) Health Policy Reform: global health versus private profit. Libri: Faringdon.

Pollock, A. and Price, D. (2013) In NHS SOS, ed by Davis, J. and Tallis, R. Oneworld: London, 174.]

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