A GROUP representing Oxfordshire’s GPs has accused hospital bosses of ‘effectively closing its doors’ to many patients.

The Oxfordshire Local Medical Committee (LMC) said it has taken the ‘unprecedented’ action of demanding an end to a delay in restoring routine referrals to all specialist hospital services in Oxford.

It claims despite it being more than three months since the government instructed hospitals reopen to routine patient referrals Oxford University Hospitals Foundation Trust (OUH), which runs the John Radcliffe, is still closed for a ‘significant number’ of high-demand specialities.

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These include ear, nose and throat, general gynaecology, eye and skin conditions.

Dr Raman Nijjar, chair of the group, said: “This disturbing situation at Oxford University Hospitals must not continue as it’s causing anxiety to patients and also having a deeply destabilising effect on local doctors’ surgeries.”

He added: “GPs are being asked to carry out tests that really should be done in hospital and they’re often unable to progress a patient’s care in the way they wish because a key hospital specialist service remains closed to routine referrals.

“Many patients are therefore caught in the middle of a primary-secondary healthcare divide.”

Oxford Mail:

Dr Raman Nijjar

The LMC believe the situation is so serious for patients it has agreed to formally raise the concerns with NHS England.

It said it accepts the focus on urgent care at the start of the pandemic but the biggest local hospital ‘cannot effectively close its doors’ on some patients for months and ‘give up’ on some of its healthcare duties.

The LMC said: “Patients need to have their referral triaged by the specialist to establish the level of urgency of that clinical need, prioritise in the context of other referrals, and give patients an indication of wait-time based on the outcome of that clinical triage.”

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It added GPs were speaking out with ‘great regret’, saying: “We do so in order to protect our patients and protect their rights to accessible healthcare, while also remaining committed to collaborative working towards that end.”

A joint statement from OUH and Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group said during the pandemic the trust continued to accept clinically urgent and suspected cancer referrals from GPs, and carry out urgent and emergency treatment.

It said the trust has been able to reinstate services to support the ‘vast majority’ of routine referrals, including plastic surgery and urology.

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It added: “GPs can continue to make routine referrals across all specialties, but some areas in high demand will see patients seen and treated outside of OUH."

The statement stressed patient and staff safety was an 'absolute priority' and the trust and CCG were working with health care providers across Oxfordshire and beyond, including the independent sector, to reduce the number of people facing long waits for non-emergency treatment.

It said the health bodies would continue to keep GPs regularly informed and 'maintain discussion' between GP practices and hospitals 'so patients can get the care they need as soon as possible, in the safest way'.