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CCGs propose raft of new rationing cuts to fill funding gap

Two CCGs in Hertfordshire are looking to ration a wide range of services in an effort to fill a funding gap of £550m by 2021.

NHS Herts Valleys and NHS East and North Hertfordshire CCGs are proposing to either reduce or scrap IVF treatment, while also requiring smokers or obese patients to quit or lose weight before being referred for non-urgent surgery.

The two CCGs are also proposing to stop funding for female sterilisation and vasectomies, except in exceptional circumstances, in a bid to save £265,600.

A third neighbouring area, NHS West Essex CCG, is also consulting on whether to reduce or cut IVF.

If all three CCGs decide to stop funding IVF treatments, they will make a combined saving of up to £2.2m annually.

Dr Hari Pathmanathan, a Hertfordshire GP and chair of NHS East and North Hertfordshire CCG, said the fertility treatment proposals ‘have the potential to make a significant difference to some patients’ lives’ but she added that the cuts ‘have already taken place in other areas and some are being considered nationally’.

Fertility Network UK found that five CCGs have stopped funding IVF completely, which GP leaders have said leaves patients in an ‘unacceptable postcode lottery’.

NHS Herts Valleys and NHS East and North Hertfordshire CCGs’ proposals will also require people with a BMI over 30 to lose weight before non-urgent surgery, while smokers will be asked to have quit smoking for eight weeks before surgery. 

The proposals could affect nearly a quarter of Hertfordshire’s population, as 22% of adults in the area are obese, while 15% smoke.

According to the CCG’s consultation document, there is a higher than usual risk when smokers or overweight patients are given an anaesthetic.

The document says: ‘These patients are much more likely to suffer serious breathing problems, get infections and have heart, kidney and lung complications.

‘It also takes them longer to recover and they have a higher risk of dying under anaesthetic.’

NHS Harrogate and Rural District and Vale of York CCGs announced the same proposal last year, which were both denounced by the Royal College of Surgeons.

Dr Nicolas Small, chair of NHS Herts Valleys CCG said more than 1,500 people have already participated in the consultation, which opened on 6 July.

He said: ‘Wherever possible we are looking to make savings that won’t affect patients – so we’re cutting administration costs within our organisations, making more efficient use of technology and buildings and making sure all health care is delivered efficiently.

‘But some of our proposed changes will have an impact on local services, and we are committed to listening and learning so that we can provide essential help and support to everyone who needs it.’ 

The CCGs’ consultation closes on 14 September.