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Routine surgery cuts ‘erode the NHS’ warns Islington campaigners

"Patients are pushed to go private"

15 March, 2019 — By Tom Foot

HIP replacements, cataracts, varicose veins and tonsillectomies are among a string of surgical operations that will no longer routinely be carried out on the NHS, under new plans set to be rubber-stamped next month.

Anti-privatisation campaigners have warned that the “universal cradle to grave safety net” of the NHS was being “eroded” by the cuts that push more patients toward paying for treatment privately.

NHS chiefs say procedures are no longer effective or have become outdated and safer, less invasive alternatives may be available.

But Islington Keep Our NHS Public (KONP) is opposing what it says is a “fraudulent” and “cost- cutting exercise… not simply based on clinical effectiveness, but designed to manage patient demand and reduce the level of expressed need”.

The updated list of Procedures of Limited Clinical Effectiveness (PoLCE) includes: knee and hip replacement, cataract surgery – specifically replacing a clouded eye lens with an artificial lens – removal of skin benign lesions, tonsillectomy, hysterectomy for heavy bleeding, carpal tunnel syndrome release, varicose vein surgery, and injections for low back pain.

There are several other treatments on the new axe list that are due to be agreed next month as part of north London’s “sustainability transformation programme” (STP).

The STP is a group of hospital, GP and local authority bosses who are working behind closed doors on a plan to reduce NHS spending in five boroughs, including Islington, by £1billion by 2022.

In many of the cases, the procedures will still be funded by the NHS but only if patients are meeting a new higher threshold of pain.

The STP was rebranded as North London Partners after public outcry in 2017.

KONP says the new PoLCE list could be seen as hitting people who suffer from diseases caused by “self- imposed” or “feckless behaviour” and clashed with the basic founding principles of the National Health Service.

The group said the North Central London NHS Trust was trying to push through the changes without consultation, in breach of its statutory duties.

An NHS statement said: “The PoLCE policy sets out evidence-based criteria for when residents will benefit from a particular operation. We do this because we want to have a consistent, evidence- based approach to delivering treatments or procedures.

“Most importantly is for every resident to be able to access the treatment they need and for this to be done on the basis of a personalised conversation with the doctor caring for them and for both parties to have clear information to help the discussion and make the right choice.

“Surgical interventions can result in unintended complications or harm. Therefore, they should only be offered to patients who really need it and for whom they will work.”

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