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Rationing causing NHS postcode lottery for elective procedures

Published on 08/03/2013

The NHS postcode lottery is affecting access to common medical procedures across the country including cataract and joint surgery, according to a new report.

Knee replacement surgery is being rationed because of cost

NHS care is available to all UK residents, but the treatment we receive and how long we wait for it depends on our location.

Now, new research reported by the BBC has shown that the number of patients undergoing elective surgery varies widely across England because of funding restrictions.

According to the study in the Lancet journal, the majority of primary care trusts (PCTs) in England have some form of rationing policy in place for certain procedures, including hernia repair, hip and knee replacements, cataracts and varicose vein surgeries.

Out of 119 primary care trusts, 102 have been found to have rationing policies in place for at least one of these procedures.

To find out how funding restrictions affect patients, a team of researchers from Imperial College London looked at how many operations have been carried out in each PCT since rationing policies were introduced.

For cataract surgery, PCTs that had rationing in place were admitting around 48% fewer patients than those with no such policy.

For knee replacements, there was at least a 20% difference in the number of patients having the operation between hospitals with restrictions and those without.

The team concluded that since rationing policies had been introduced into the NHS, there has been significant variations in access to certain procedures for almost every year looked at.

The report said that access to surgery should be judged by clinical experts on the basis of individual need, not decided on cost.

A Department of Health representative said: "We have already written to the NHS to clearly set out that access to services should not be restricted on the basis of cost - it is wrong and compromises patient care.

"Decisions on treatments, including suitability for surgery, should be made by clinical experts taking the needs of each patient into account."

Dr Richard Theo of said: “One of the benefits of a health insurance policy is getting quick access to surgery in a private hospital of your choice. Look for a medical insurance quote with full inpatient cover if you are worried about waiting lists for elective procedures.”

© ActiveQuote Ltd. 2013

Categories:  MedicalNHS and Hospitals
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