Rationing Healthcare in the NHS – Part I

As numerous rows about the future of the NHS continue to unfold, new evidence suggests that patients are increasingly being denied major surgery as healthcare is effectively rationed.

Evidence in The Guardian newspaper indicates that patients are frequently denied such critical services as mental healthcare, hip and knee replacement operations, and vital medicinal drugs.

The NHS is seemingly resorting to every conceivable approach in order to overcome its growing cash crisis.

Indeed, the situation is so serious that it is not at all unreasonable to describe the existing policy as one of rationing healthcare.

When doctors in the NHS where surveyed recently, over 75 per cent indicated that they had experienced care being rationed in their particular region of the NHS over the last 12 months.

Treatments rationed included speech therapy, operations to remove varicose veins, Botox to help children with cerebral palsy move more freely, and even potentially life-saving stem cell transplant surgery.

Commenting on these worrying figures, Dr Mark Porter, leader of the British Medical Association, commented: “The NHS is being forced to choose between which patients to treat, with some facing delays in treatment and others being denied some treatments entirely. This survey lays bare the extreme pressure across the system and the distress caused to patients as a result.”

The survey, conducted by Binley’s OnMedica, a healthcare data and intelligence provider, painted a picture of massive problems across the health service as organisers and frontline workers attempt to cope with an increasing convergence of massive infrastructure problems.

Following this survey, debate about the future of the NHS will only intensify.

The Conservative government has attempted to defend its position, and suggest that the health service itself must spend money more efficiently and effectively.

And the findings from the survey prompted comment from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health in the House of Lords, David Prior.

Prior even suggested that NHS organisations may be breaching the law by rationing healthcare.

“Treatment decisions should only be made by doctors based on a patient’s individual clinical needs. Local health bodies have a legal responsibility to provide services meeting the needs of their local population, and we expect NHS England to act if there is any evidence of inappropriate rationing of care,” Prior commented.

The NHS is facing numerous problems, with staffing related to junior doctors proving to be a particular issue.

Meanwhile, the health service also faces a deficit of around £30 billion between now and the end of the decade, while also being expected to make serious efficiency savings.

Add in the fact that the Conservative government has opined that the NHS must switch to a true seven-day culture, and the existing situation is pretty much a perfect storm.

There are huge demographic problems for both the NHS and the government to address in the coming years, and it is clear that the time of writing that these are not being tackled satisfactorily.


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