Doctors have demanded that the Government produce a ‘consistent set of national standards’ on ‘low priority’ treatments to eradicate postcode lotteries in care.
Delegates at the BMA’s Annual Representative Meeting in Cardiff overwhelmingly backed a motion deploring the variable definitions and thresholds of low-priority treatments being implemented by PCOs, and said it was imperative that national standards were laid out to ensure patients had ‘equitable access to services’.
A separate motion, also carried, called upon the BMA to ‘ensure there are appropriate safeguards to prevent local variations in care leading to a “postcode lottery” and that patients are treated equitably’.
GPC negotiator Dr Chaand Nagpaul, a GP in Stanmore in northwest London who proposed the motion calling for national standards to be applied, said in his local area 85 procedures had been declared low priority, and said many ‘subjective thresholds’ were being set according to financial requirements rather than patient need.
Dr Nagpaul said: ‘This is an injustice that flouts the basic principle of an NHS based on need, not geography. There is a huge variation to a range treatments entirely dictated by location.’
Dr Nagpaul added that some patients had even considered taking drastic steps to get around local treatment thresholds.
He said: ‘Shamefully, some patients have considered moving house to another PCT. Care has to be prioritised for those in greatest need. Fairness and consistency should apply at a national level.’
The motion was opposed by Dr Keith Reid, who said the situation was an inevitable by-product of allowing commissioners more freedom to commission local services.
‘Resource allocation to the local NHS is imperfect,’ he argued.
But BMA chair Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairing the debate, said: ‘I understand resource constraint, but discussions should be taken nationally.’