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Research Article

Influence of Royal College of Radiologists' guidelines on referral from general practice. Royal College of Radiologists Working Party.

BMJ 1993; 306 doi: (Published 09 January 1993) Cite this as: BMJ 1993;306:110


OBJECTIVE--To measure the effect on general practitioner referrals for radiography of introducing guidelines of good practice together with monitoring and peer review. DESIGN--Collection of referral data during 1 January 1989 to 31 December 1990. Guidelines were introduced on 1 January 1990. SETTING--Open access radiology services provided by one non-teaching district in England. SUBJECTS--144614 registered patients from 22 practices. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Number of referrals per 1000 registered patients for radiography of the chest, skull, spine, abdomen, limbs, and joints and for barium investigation and excretion urography. RESULTS--Overall referrals fell from 88.4/1000 registered patients to 77.2/1000 after the guidelines were introduced. The commonest reasons for referral were for examination of the chest, spine, and limbs and joints and referrals for these fell by 9.4%, 17.5%, and 13.5% respectively. Referrals for skull radiography fell by 30% (from 241 to 168). CONCLUSIONS--By helping general practitioners to be more selective in their use of diagnostic radiology, the guidelines reduced the rate of referral and thus patients' exposure to radiation.