Published: 20/03/2003, Volume II3, No. 5847 Page 11

Primary care trusts in north west London are set to take over the management of waiting lists from acute trusts in a radical extension of patient choice, HSJ has learned.

Three PCTs - Brent, Harrow and Hillingdon - are due to start the management of waiting lists for a number of specialties by June, with the scheme being rolled out across the whole of North West London strategic health authority by March 2004.

The PCTs currently use two main acute trusts - Hillingdon Hospital and North West London Hospitals - and under the scheme patients would be offered a choice of which hospital to be treated at, treatment within primary care, or treatment at a diagnostic centre. The PCT would therefore manage the waiting lists until the point at which a patient decided to be treated in one of the local trusts.

Harrow PCT professional executive committee chair Dr Ken Walton said: 'If you are going to give the patient choice about where they get their procedures done, then, by default almost, you take on the management of the waiting lists. It is implicit in the issue of choice in primary care that PCTs will manage the demand and the waiting lists.

'It is essentially about managing the demand from primary care. It would be managing it from the patient's perspective rather than the trust's.'

Dr Walton said the aim was also to give GPs more options on how to refer their patients on.

He said: 'What we would like is to build up a lot more treatment options for back pain such as a community-based physiotherapist or referral to a physiotherapist with special interests - an extended skills practitioner.

'What we very much want to do is build a whole range of choice for the GP so that the patient is not rushed down the pathway of seeing the surgeon and having an operation.'

The aim is to widen the scheme to other specialties within the three PCTs and then roll it out to all of the SHA by the end of the next financial year.