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CCG announces several thresholds for operations in rationing drive

A CCG has announced a spate of restrictions to services, including a number of thresholds for smokers and obese patients ahead of planned operations. 

NHS North East Essex CCG has confirmed that it is going ahead with restricting services including IVF, gluten free prescriptions, vasectomy and female sterilisation, but is also introducing ’thresholds’ for planned operations to help it cut spending by £14m each year for the next four years.

The chief officer of the CCG said it did not want to make these restrictions but it was in ‘light of extremely challenging financial services’.

It follows an investigation by Pulse in July that revealed CCGs across the country are introducing policies that cap surgical referrals, requiring overweight patients to go on ‘weight loss programmes’ before an operation and denying hard-of-hearing patients hearing aids and audiological care.

Under NHS North East Essex’s CCG’s criteria, all smokers referred for non-urgent elective surgery should be referred to smoking cessation services at the initial assessment while overweight and obese patients should be strongly encouraged to lose weight before their operation, the CCG said.

Failure to attend smoking cessation or weight loss programmes may have an impact on whether individuals can undergo their procedure.

Under new restrictions on IVF, only certain types of patients will get access – for example, patients, being treated for cancer or who have a disease or a condition requiring medical or surgical treatment that has a significant likelihood of making them infertile.

Sam Hepplewhite, acting chief officer at North East Essex CCG, said: ’None of us want to make these restrictions but we are having to do so in light of extremely challenging financial circumstances.’

She said that the CCG would review any restrictions to clinical services after one year.