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Research Article

General practice orthopaedic outpatient referrals in North Staffordshire.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1983; 287 doi: (Published 12 November 1983) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1983;287:1439
  1. A K Ross,
  2. W A Davis,
  3. G Horn,
  4. R Williams


    A study was made of 813 orthopaedic referrals by 134 general practitioners in North Staffordshire. The referral rates showed no relation to practice list size or the doctors' previous orthopaedic experience. The published waiting times did not accurately reflect clinic vacancies, and no effective priority rating of letters by consultants was shown. Less than 1% of patients had an appointment within four weeks. One quarter of the patients failed to attend and, of those who did, 27% received physiotherapy or a "simple" appliance, or both, while 16% received treatment already available from their general practitioner. Patients from high referring doctors showed the same pattern of distribution in body area affected and treatment outcome as those from low referring doctors, but had a significantly longer time to wait for their appointment. A survey of non-attenders showed that 56% of the patients failed to attend because the condition had resolved.