Cuts Watch #394: patients denied NHS operations
NHS trusts are denying operations to up to one in eight of all patients referred by GPs. Pulse magazine reports on the rise of “total referral management”, a variety of cost control measures, sometimes involving “referrence management centres”, some operated by private companies. Four in five primary care organisations now operate a referral gateway of some sort and a growing list of procedureshave to be authorised in this way.
Dr Anil Chopra, medical director at the South West Essex trust is reported as confirming that their decision to stop funding 213 procedures is part of plan designed to bring down spending. The magazine’s survey reveals a clear trend to toughen admissions criteria to increase savings, with Harrow PCT setting a £3.4m intarget for “unscheduled care and admissions avoidance.” The Guardian‘s coverage of this story adds that obese patients and smokers are being denied hip and knee surgery and at least one trust is handing over abortions to Marie Stopes.
Pulse quotes a Department of Health spokesperson as saying:
We are committed to devolving power and responsibility for commissioning services to GPs, who are best placed to ensure patients get the high quality care they need. Aligning clinical decisions with management of resources will lead to more effective referrals.