Healthcare rationing 'needs to stop' - NAO
Published on 13 December 2012 11:30 AM
The Government has been urged to take 'a more active interest' to guarantee that patient care is not being streamlined, according to a new report.
The National Audit Office (NAO) said the Department of Health is unable to obtain assurances from regional healthcare chiefs that patients are not suffering from restricted care.
Recent research showed that some healthcare trusts have put a restriction on operations, such as knee or hip replacements, cataracts surgery and tonsillectomies, in a bid to slash costs.
Despite the Government prohibiting local trusts from issuing a blanket ban on operations, the report calls for improved dialogues between the two to provide assurances that operations are not being 'inappropriately restricted'.
The NAO report, which is looking into the health service's efficiency drive, stated: 'The aim is to control demand without inappropriately restricting patients' access to care, but the Department has no way of routinely gaining assurance that this is being achieved.'
The authors said: 'The Department should take a more active interest in demand management and develop ways of gaining routine assurance that patients' access to healthcare is not being inappropriately restricted.
'Monitoring access is not straightforward, but the Department needs more evidence on the impact of demand management.
'It should also ensure that local policies on access to care are transparent so that commissioners can be held to account.'
Rationing services based on costs is 'completely unacceptable'
However, a spokesman for the Department of Health claims it has been made 'absolutely clear' that rationing services depending on the costs involved is 'completely unacceptable'.
'Decisions on treatments, including suitability for surgery, should be made by clinical experts taking the needs of each patient into account,' said the spokesman.
'We have already written to the NHS to set out clearly that access to services should not be restricted on the basis of cost.'
The report also expressed fears that the NHS could struggle to sustain the exceptional savings made over a prolonged amount of time.
Many medical experts consider the future level of British healthcare to depend on how successful the NHS is in achieving its £20bn target in efficiency savings by 2015.
Copyright Press Association 2012