The unprecedented move by West Kent Clinical Commissioning Group has been slammed as “unfair” by doctors, who say it will prolong patients suffering.
The plans, which came to light in board papers published this week, is set to hit as many as 1,700 patients waiting for ops including those who need a new hip or knee.
Non-urgent surgery will not resume at the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust until the start of the next financial year in April 2017.
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Financial problems are forcing an NHS group to cancel operations for 102 days
Clare Marx, the president of the Royal College of Surgeons, has blasted the plans which she claims could have “major consequences” for patients.
She said: “West Kent CCG's suspension of non-urgent surgery until April is unprecedented and unfair.
“Patients, some of whom may be in severe discomfort or pain, should not be made to wait longer for treatment because the CCG has run out of money and surgical patients are perceived as easily postponed.
“The CCG is trying to make short term savings which may have major consequences for patients.
Proposed plans will hit as many as 1,700 patients waiting for operations
Patients, some of whom may be in severe discomfort or pain, should not be made to wait longer for treatment because the CCG has run out of money
Clare Marx, Royal College of Surgeons
“While patients wait for treatment, their conditions could deteriorate, sometimes making treatment more complex and costly in the long term.
“In addition standing down surgeons and their teams is inefficient and a waste of scarce resource. Clinical decisions must not be made purely on a financial basis.”
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The Guardian reported the operation ban was the longest in NHS history.
The CCG, which serves 460,000 patients across the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells areas, has made the controversial decision in a bid to meet its £472 million annual budget.
West Kent CCG is trying to save millions of pounds through these measures
It hopes to save £2.1m by not sending patients for surgery at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust and a further £1.1m by limiting the number of patients sent to private health firms.
The group is also restricting access to cataract surgery and expensive IVF treatment in the desperate bid to save cash.
The cut-backs are the latest in a series of moves by cash-strapped CCGs limiting access to treatment, including rationing care for smokers and obese people.
The Department of Health has also criticised the ban, and said the clinical needs of patients “must come first”.
The cut-backs are one in a series of money saving moves
Di Ian Ayres, the CCGs accountable officer, told the Guardian: “For a hip or a knee replacement, some individuals, although suffering continued discomfort, would be able to wait longer for their operation without there being an adverse outcome for their health.
“We are working with our providers to identify exactly which patients will be affected, but estimate the number of patients affected to be in the order of 1,700. We have not prescribed in advance a list of procedures or patients to be delayed. Anyone who has had a procedure booked will be treated. No one will have their operation or procedure cancelled as a result of this policy.
“Patients will continue to be referred by their GP outpatient appointment and be seen by a consultant. A judgment will then be made as to whether the required procedure is urgent, or non-urgent and could wait. Therefore, no one with an urgent healthcare need will be made to wait.”
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