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Trust insisting patients pay for proven treatments ‘wholly unacceptable’?

The gradual squeeze on the treatments available to NHS patients has taken an alarming new turn, with the revelation that one NHS Trust has started to charge patients for treatments that it deems ‘low clinical priority’.

In a deeply concerning development, the Warrington and Halton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has published a list of procedures that it no longer routinely provides. Instead the Trust is informing patients that they now need to pay for treatments that are widely available for free elsewhere on the NHS.

While some of the 71 procedures on the ‘My Choice’ list have been classed as not clinically effective or only effective under specific circumstances, it also includes hip and knee replacements, cataract removal, and hernia surgery, which are considered cost effective by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and have been proven to relieve patients’ pain and suffering, and help them lead a normal life.

The story was published by the Daily Mirror on June 20, with input from the Medical Technology Group as part of our Ration Watch campaign. It was immediately branded ‘blatant privatisation’ by campaigners.

The Medical Technology Group is also deeply concerned by the development. Our Chair, Barbara Harpham, branded it ‘wholly unacceptable’ and contrary to the ethos of the NHS:

“One of the founding principles of the NHS is that care should be free at the point of use and based on clinical need, not the ability to pay. Here it appears that patients are being told that they need treatment, that they would get treatment in other parts of the NHS, but the criteria set by this hospital means they have to cover the costs themselves.

“Many of the procedures are proven, evidence-based treatments that have been successfully used for decades. To classify them as ‘low clinical priority’ is wholly unacceptable. To tell patients who are blind or unable to walk and whose lives are being blighted by treatable conditions, that they must pay for their treatment is contrary to NHS core values and deeply alarming.

“NHS England must conduct an urgent review into this case to ensure this outrageous policy is reverted and to prevent it being adopted elsewhere.”

Our Ration Watch campaign launched in March 2019 to highlight variation in local commissioning and call for changes to eradicate the postcode lottery.

We want NHS England to set clear guidelines on which procedures should be commissioned and which should not. We also want a national body to be created with the power to intervene when unfair policies are adopted.

This disturbing new self-pay development makes the need for action even more urgent.

June 2019

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