Survey shows NHS care being rationed

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Data from trusts in England suggests that access to NHS care, including knee and hip operations, is being restricted.

GP Magazine gathered evidence under the Freedom of Information Act, which showed that nine in 10 trusts were imposing restrictions.

The magazine received responses from two-thirds of the 151 trusts about the procedures they considered to be non-urgent. This has shown that limits on cataract surgery were in place in 66% of trusts, while over half of areas were rationing weight-loss surgery and hip and knee operations.

The Health Minister has indicated that this is unacceptable and action will be taken against those local health bodies which stop patients from having treatments on the basis of cost alone.

David Stout, of the NHS Confederation, which represents primary care trusts, has reported to the BBC that there were sometimes justifiable reasons for rationing. He said while arbitrary restrictions should not be put in place, trusts had to prioritise care in the current environment and make sure they got the best value available. “The NHS faces considerable financial pressures and scarce resources have to be used as effectively as possible.”

A medical negligence solicitor at Ashtons Legal, comments: “This rationing of certain NHS procedures seems to be purely a cost-saving exercise, which could lead to many people living with a reduced quality of life just because of where they live. This is completely unacceptable and it is welcome news that the Health Minister has indicated that action will be taken against those local health bodies that prevent patients from having treatments on the basis of cost alone. A national heath service should be just that and offer consistent service availability across the country. The quality and availability of this service should not be based on a postcode lottery.”



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