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Health chiefs block patients from protesting over move to cut number of free treatments

Savings will see vasectomies only available under 'local anaesthetic'

09 February, 2018 — By Tom Foot

HEALTH bosses have drawn up a blacklist of treatments which will no longer be funded by the NHS – and the New Journal can reveal they want patients to be prevented from getting the chance to protest against the changes.

The North London Partners, a group of health chiefs set up to review spending across five boroughs, described the public as a “barrier” to making £3million worth of cuts. Thousands of people could be affected by the changes but, in a withering assessment of whether to ask patients for their views on what should and should not be funded, a report by the group said “the public is the wrong ­audience” and “if we agree to no public consultation, we can action this immediately… Public consultation is [the] only barrier.”

The report, entitled “Using NHS Money Wisely”, which was sent to councillors in ­Camden to view this week, added that “to conduct a public consultation would not be a wise use of NHS resources, time and money”.

Consultation has so far been restricted to Enfield where an even more far-reaching move to deny some elderly patients hearing aids and knee operations was abandoned following a public backlash.One procedure set to be highly restricted in Camden is bunion surgery, with only patients in “persistent pain” and those who have spent at least six months on painkillers able to access treatment. Patients who have been forced out of work because of pain for three months could qualify.

Professor Sue Richards, chairwoman of the national body Keep Our NHS Public, said: “What worries me about this blanket ban on certain treatments is that GPs will not be able to do their best for their patients as they see it. “A blanket ban assumes that all patients are the same, but the point of a GP is that they know all your circumstances and can make a judgement about what you need.” She added: “I am also very worried that it is these treatments today, but as the money for the NHS gets tighter and tighter, the list will grow.”

The report was discussed at Camden’s “joint overview and health scrutiny committee” meeting in Camden Town Hall on Tuesday afternoon. The North London Partners is a group of senior healthcare executives from five boroughs, including Camden and Islington, which is trying to reduce NHS spending by around £1billion over the next five years. It is the rebranded name for the Sustainability Transformation Plan (STP). The STP overhaul has been criticised as too secretive and vague.

John Lipetz, a Camden representative for the STP Watch group, said: “The whole story in all these cuts is that if you delay taking action with some patients, it costs more in the long-run. They say there is a huge saving to be made but I can’t believe it.”

Vasectomies will in the future only be available “under local anaesthetic”, while abdominal hernia surgery and gall bladder removal – a very common surgical procedure – will be added to what the NHS calls Procedures of Limited Clinical Effectiveness (PoLCE). Also on the blacklist are skin grafts for some scarring treatment, penile implants and utero-vaginal prolapse.

Before Christmas, the Enfield Clinical Commissioning Group held a consultation with its patients over the changes, leading to a “total rejection” of the proposals to scale back funding for hearing aids and knee replacements.

A spokeswoman for North London Partners said: “Following on from the meeting and the presentation of the paper ‘Using Money Wisely’, North London Partners in Health and Care will issue an updated version of the policy which includes the updates applied by Enfield in December, subject to approval from the NCL Health and Care Cabinet. This will bring a consistent and equitable approach to five boroughs of North Central London.”

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