Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Trusts Accused of Restricting Surgery; but Manager Seeks to Give Reassurance

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Trusts Accused of Restricting Surgery; but Manager Seeks to Give Reassurance

Article excerpt

Byline: Helen Rae

HEALTH trusts in the North East have been accused of restricting operations that they deem to be non-urgent or of low clinical value.

But a leading NHS manager in the region last night launched a robust defence, insisting no patient is denied treatment if they have a clinical need for it.

Information gathered under the Freedom of Information Act by GP magazine, is said to reveal that Primary Care Trusts are restricting access to NHS care.

Nationally, more than 90% of health trusts in England had measures in place to limit GP referrals for procedures - including knee and hip operations - for 2012/13, the magazine reported.

Limits on cataract surgery were said to be in place in 66% of trusts, while 59% restrict weight-loss surgery, 59% limit hip and knee joint surgery and 89% restrict tonsillectomies.

In the North East, no health trust which responded to the Freedom of Information request has restrictions in place for joint replacement operations, including knee and hip surgery.

However, Newcastle PCT, North Tyneside PCT and Northumberland Care Trust are revealed to have restrictions on referrals for weight-loss surgery, cataract operations and tonsillectomy procedures.

County Durham and Darlington PCT has restrictions on referrals for patients who need their tonsils removed. GPs and a charity claimed PCTs are "introducing waiting lists by the back door" by limiting access to NHS care.

But Dr Mike Guy, medical director for NHS North of Tyne and NHS County Durham and Darlington said: "It's important that people are reassured that if they have a clinical need for an operation or treatment available on the NHS then they will get it.

"It is incorrect to suggest that people living in Newcastle, North Tyneside, Northumberland, County Durham and Darlington are being denied NHS treatment.

For some standard treatments, such as a hip replacement, GPs have always referred directly to an orthopaedic consultant.

"However, for some other treatments GPs make an application to the local PCT to make sure that patient meets the relevant clinical criteria and are, therefore, eligible for funding for the treatment or operation. This is a consistent approach across the North East.

"People who have a clinical need to have their tonsils or a cataract removed - and those who meet the clinical criteria for procedures such as weight-loss surgery - would get these operations." Dr Guy insisted that PCTs in the region do not restrict access to any NHS treatments due to costs as the "local NHS is managing its finances well". …

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