Operation follow-up appointments are being cut across England to save money, according to a new report revealed by Pulse magazine, a move which could affect the health of patients without private medical insurance.
Sir David Nicholson, chief executive of the NHS, has demanded the service makes "efficiency gains" of up to £20 billion by March 2015.
Consequently, the number of follow-up appointments for patients after an operation has dropped by 1.2 million between 2009 and 2010, from 23.4 to 22.2 million. This is a five per cent fall.
In Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust the number dropped by 39 per cent, and at Ealing Hospital NHS Trust they fell by 27 per cent.
Health authorities are also planning percentage cuts to the number of follow-up appointments they are prepared to fund. According to the county’s local medical committee (LMC), NHS Gloucestershire has told doctors it will be funding 900 fewer rheumatology follow-ups, with dermatology, urology and other departments also affected.
Dr Philip Fielding, chair of Gloucestershire LMC, said members were "concerned patients with chronic conditions could be prejudiced by being discharged to GP practices where there might be neither the skill nor the capacity to treat them".
"This is another of the games hospitals play to save money. Readmissions are obviously a concern because they are more expensive than follow-up appointments. Everything has workload implications for primary care at the moment. There comes a time when enough is enough."
With cuts affecting all areas of the NHS, it is patients with private medical insurance who will avoid the consequences. With private medical insurance, patients will be covered for an operation in a private hospital of their choice, at a time of their choice, with exemplary aftercare.
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