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Rise in exceptional funding appeals from patients

GPs are seeing increasing numbers of patients appeal against NHS rationing decisions, as more patients turn to exceptional cases panels to fight rejections for procedures such as breast reductions and bariatric surgery.

Pulse's survey found that 53% had experienced a rise in the number of patient appeals to an exceptional cases panel this year. Some 34% said they had not experienced more patient appeals, while the remainder were unsure.

Dr Mike Ellwood, a GP in Hull, said he had not seen any such appeals last year, but was now seeing one a month.

‘We get a lot of upset and unhappy patients,' he said. ‘We know that bariatric surgery reverses diabetic problems and the arthritis associated with being overweight. Patients are suffering from increased turmoil from not having access to these procedures, or having them delayed.'

Dr Oliver Starr, a GP in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, said even the rationing of procedures deemed ‘cosmetic' could have a severe psychological impact on patients: ‘I had one patient who needed an abdominoplasty severely. It was cosmetic, but still really awful. She was rejected for the treatment on the NHS. Plastic surgeons used to do these procedures based on their own judgments whereas now they need permission because of funding.'

A spokesperson from NHS Hertfordshire said: ‘We have seen an increase in individual funding requests over the past two years.'