"Consulting room cuts" underway as thousands to be denied operations, says ENT-UK

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Whole areas of proven NHS treatment are being shut down without public consultation or debate and without discussion with the relevant hospital specialists – the only way patients find out is in the consulting room, according to ENT-UK.

The NHS is presenting the image of 'business as usual' to the public while plans are well under way to radically reduce access to effective treatments to save money. This lack of transparency is unfair on patients and doctors.

Whole areas of proven NHS treatment are being shut down without public consultation or debate and without discussion with the relevant hospital specialists – the only way patients find out is in the consulting room, according to ENT-UK. Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) across the country have drawn up and distributed lists of hospital services that will no longer be funded regardless of the clinical opinion.

Operations and services that surgeons have reported to be at risk include:

  •     Gallstone removal operations, relieving patients of extreme pain and discomfort.
  •     Tonsillectomy operations were performed last year, mostly in young people for recurrent tonsillitis causing significant ill-health and absence from school, college and work.
  •     Operations performed to improve hearing in young children with chronic glue ear, resulting in improved child development and educational attainment.
  •     Inguinal hernia operations.
  •     Orthopaedic procedure including spinal and back pain operations.

For all these conditions, clear evidence already exists regarding who benefits from surgery with established NICE guidance. Surgeons have already identified which patients with these conditions need treatment and for many there are serious long-term complications of failing to do so.

There is growing concern that access to surgical services will be severely restricted from April by NHS commissioners as a means of making savings. A CIVITAS study produced in March showed a third of primary care trusts are running at a deficit and a report from management consultant McKinsey commissioned by the Department of Health controversially identified procedure cuts without any clinical input. Senior surgeons across the UK will be told not to go ahead with these operations, regardless of clinical opinion, and it is falling to them to break the news to patients.

Alan Johnson, president of ENT-UK, comments “The NHS is presenting the image of ‘business as usual’ to the public while plans are well under way to radically reduce access to effective treatments to save money. This lack of transparency is unfair on patients and doctors.”

“We all recognise that the current financial situation is difficult and that savings are going to be needed, but there should be an open discussion involving the public, patients and experts when it comes to discussions about what treatments the NHS should and should not pay for. Cutting services may save some money, but will also deny many patients access to effective treatments.“

Patient case studies are available who are willing to talk about how they have benefited from these operations.

Notes to editor:

1.    ENT-UK is the specialty association for Ear Nose and Throat surgeons throughout the UK.
2.    Position statements and evidence-based guidelines exist on the ENT-UK website for all of the above listed ENT operations at http://www.entuk.org
3.    If you have any queries please contact:

Matthew Worrall        
Email: mworrall(at)rcseng.ac(dot)uk;
T: 020 7869 6047

Elaine Towell
Email: etowell(at)rcseng.ac(dot)uk
T: 020 7869 6045

Out-of-hours: 07966 486 832

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