PCTs have come under renewed fire for rationing caesarean sections in the latest bid by NHS managers to cut the costs of secondary care operations.
A number of PCTs have banned hospitals from giving the go-ahead for a caesarean section, and will only fund the procedure if the woman's health would be put at risk by a natural birth.
The new clampdown on caesarean sections is the latest in a long line of restrictions placed on clinical procedures, uncovered by Pulse, including hip and knee operations, tonsillectomies, cataract operations and surgery for incontinence.
Health economists predict reducing the proportion of babies born by caesarean section by 1% would save the NHS £5.6 million every year.
PCTs in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, Herefordshire, Bristol, South Staffordshire, County Durham, Dorset, Derbyshire, and Bournemouth and Poole have all placed new restrictions on caesarean sections – but insist the bans are in place for planned, elective caesareans only and say women will not be denied if a caesarean is required because of complications occurring during a natural labour, say newspaper reports.
Dr Michael Dixon, chairman of the NHS Alliance, which represents GPs who run health service budgets, said: ‘We are going to need to balance all sorts of things in future, from cancer to heart disease. When it comes to treatments we may need to spend less on, that caesareans may be one.'
Dr Paul Armstrong, a consultant obstetrician at the Portland hospital in London, said: ‘Just as a woman has a right to choose home birth or other non-interventionist techniques, so should she have the right to choose a caesarean.'