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NHS treatment restrictions ‘on the rise’

Primary care organisations have stopped or imposed restrictions on 125 separate treatments previously provided free by the NHS, a new survey reveals.

Research by Labour's shadow health team shows that PCTs and CCGs have capped numbers of treatments provided, diverged from NICE guidelines and introduced more restrictive eligibility criteria.

Some 100 organisations responded to the survey, with 46% restricting or decommissioning services in the years 2010-11 and 2011-12.

The results also showed 125 different services had been rationed across the health service, with 22 being entirely stopped in some parts of the country.

Labour said the restrictions included capping budgets, by introducing a finite pot of money that runs out regardless of clinical need, age restrictions, and the re-writing of eligibility criteria to restrict the numbers of patients who qualified for treatment.

Labour called on the Government to order an immediate review of rationing in the NHS and to act immediately on new evidence showing treatment restriction on cost alone. 

A Labour spokesperson said the Government ‘should produce clear national guidelines for CCGs/PCTs and for the immediate reversal of rationing decisions which leave patients in severe pain, restrict mobility, limit their ability to live independently or have a major psychological impact.'

Dr Johnny Marshall, a member of the NHS Future Design and a GP in Wendover, Bucks, said: ‘CCGs need to look at what's being provided and stop doing the things that aren´t providing the best value for money for the populations they serve - while still allowing for exceptions.'

Dr David Jenner, a GP in Cullompton, Devon and NHS Alliance contract lead, said: ‘There´s no doubt that it is CCGs' responsibility to restrict where necessary but they must not restrict on cost alone.'