Treatment blacklist, but you can’t protest
Health chiefs: It would not be wise to consult patients
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 Tribune can reveal they want patients to be prevented from getting the chance to protest against the changes.
North London Partners (NLP), 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 could be affected by the changes but a report by the group considering whether patients should be asked for their views said: “The public is the wrong audience.” It added:
“If we agree to no public consultation, we can action this immediately… Public consultation is [the] only barrier.”
The report, “Using NHS Money Wisely”, was sent to Islington councillors this week. It said 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 a 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 Islington is bunion surgery, with only patients in “persistent pain” and who have spent at least six months on painkillers able to access treatment. Patients who have been forced out of work for three months because of the pain could qualify.
Professor Sue Richards, co-chairwoman of 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 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: “It is these treatments today, but as money for the NHS gets tighter and tighter, the list will grow.”
The report was discussed at the “joint overview and health scrutiny committee” – a meeting of north London council scrutiny chiefs, including Islington councillor Martin Klute – in Camden on Tuesday.
NLP, a group of senior health care executives from five boroughs, including Islington, is trying to reduce NHS spending by around £1billion over the next five years. Vasectomies will in future only be available “under local anaesthetic”, while abdominal hernia surgery and gall bladder removal will be added to what the NHS calls “Procedures of Limited Clinical Effectiveness”.
Before Christmas, an Enfield Clinical Commissioning Group consultation with patients over the changes led to a “total rejection” of proposals to scale back funding for hearing aids and knee replacements.
A NLP spokeswoman said a new version of its policy would include the updates applied by Enfield in December, subject to approval from the North Central London Health and Care Cabinet. “This will bring a consistent and equitable approach to the five boroughs of North Central London,” she added.