Reports have indicated that NHS leaders intend to extend the rationing of treatment for smokers and obese patients.
A leaked letter has been acquired by the press, with NHS bodies across England seemingly forced to implement restrictions on access to treatment.
The plan is outlined in a letter sent on 15th March by Dr David Black, NHS England’s medical director for Yorkshire and the Humber, to Rotherham Clinical Commissioning Group.
Within the letter, Black praises the GP-led group that controls the NHS budget for introducing what has been described by critics as ‘lifestyle rationing’.
“We are very supportive of your work to best manage resources for the benefit of all patients and understand that this may mean that difficult decisions need to be made,” Black writes.
The letter goes on to suggest that the scheme could be extended to other aspects of the NHS system in the coming months.
“We expect that many CCGs will be in the process of developing similar schemes and initiatives to deliver plans for 2017-19. This is something we would encourage, where plans are well developed and clinically validated.”
There has been huge opposition to curtailing NHS treatment on the basis of lifestyle issues.
And ex-health minister Norman Lamb has been one of the critics of this notion, suggesting that it is inimical to the ethos of the NHS.
“This is yet more evidence of the creeping advance of rationing. Guidance based purely on medical judgment on weight loss is fine, but what is happening around the country goes well beyond that in practice. It will inevitably result in those people with money paying for speedy treatment, while everyone else is left waiting,” Lamb commented.
Lamb went as far to suggest that the Conservatives are presiding over the destruction of the NHS.
“We are seeing, bit by bit, the destruction of the solidarity that this country has been so proud of with the NHS – the idea that whatever your income or wealth, you get access to the care you need, in your hour of need.”
Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, suggested that the Tories have failed to fund the NHS adequately, and now healthcare bodies are consequently forced to make tough decisions.
“This secret memo from NHS chiefs reveals the truth of what’s happening to the NHS under the Tories – more and more rationing of treatments. People will be waiting longer and longer in pain and discomfort for surgery such as hip and knee replacements. There is now a very clear choice in this election. Cuts, longer waiting times and restrictions on treatment under the Tories, or Labour, who will return our NHS to its founding principle of universal provision, free at the point of need, with best quality of care for all.”