Doctors must juggle budgets and care
The evidence, gathered under the Freedom of Information Act by GP magazine, is based on responses from two thirds of the 151 trusts in England. It suggests that nine out of ten of those trusts were restricting non urgent operations.
The most common restriction was on tonsillectomies with 89% of areas imposing restrictions.
Limits on cataract surgery were in place in 66% of trusts, while over half of areas were restricting weight-loss surgery and hip and knee operations.
The findings will add fuel to the fierce debate over NHS ‘rationing, heightened by pressures to save billions of pounds and raise the question of a ‘postcode lottery' that sees variations in access to healthcare depending on where patients live.
The NHS has always had to consider how taxpayer funded resources should be shared so ‘rationing’ according to need rather than demand is not new.
Indeed, many argue the NHS is better to concentrate its resources in most cases on other, more serious conditions.
But, the question of whether or not a treatment is clinically effective also has an impact on decisions.
New clinical procedures, drugs and the fact that we’re living longer mean treatments and demand are constantly changing.
There are some 800 procedures listed as ‘do not do’ by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence because they’re ineffective or outdated but, generally speaking NICE offers advice that it cannot force trusts to take.