Mutual referral: a survey of GPs in Beijing

Document Type

Journal Article


Faculty of Computing, Health and Science


School of Medical Sciences




Du, J., Lu, X., Wang, Y., Cui, S., Guo, A., Coid, D., & Wang, W. (2012). Mutual referral: a survey of GPs in Beijing. Family Practice, 29(4), 441-447. Available here


Background.: China has been engaged in the process of reforming its health care system recently. The government has attempted to rebuild the referral system to lower cost and enhance equity of the medical services. Objective.: This study was undertaken to evaluate the current status of mutual referral pilot programme, perceived factors that affect referral behaviour and changes that would improve the current referral process in Beijing. Methods.: Using a cross-sectional study design, we sent a postal questionnaire to 138 urban district community health service (CHS) centres in Beijing. Questions were chosen from a formal consensus process based on a nominal group technique. Results.: One hundred twenty-five of 138 (90.6%) CHS centres responded to the survey. Seventy-six (61.8%) CHS centres reported that the mutual referral system was feasible. Twenty-six (21.1%) CHS centres reported that the mutual referral programme was running smoothly. Uncertainties of diagnosis/management and access to particular medical specialty interest or skills were the two most common factors that were suggested as affecting referral behaviour. The presence of a dedicated department to accept referrals in hospitals and the use of referral guidelines were the most preferred choices as likely to improve the current referral process. Conclusions.: Since a system of gatekeeper role by GPs at CHS organizations has not been established in Beijing, most CHS doctors agree that to ensure the smooth operation of referrals, a dedicated department should be assigned by hospitals to receive referred patients. Official guidelines on referral should be developed, and health authorities should strengthen their supervision of referrals.