Third of health authorities still imposing postcode lottery treatment bans

A third of local health authorities are still imposing postcode lottery treatment on certain ailments including hernia operations, IVF, varicose vein removal and even hip and knee replacements, according to a survey of GPs.Third of health authorities still imposing postcode lottery treatment bansLast November Andrew Lansley- the then Health Secretary, banned primary care trusts (PCTs) and health commissioning groups from imposing across-the-board restrictions, describing them as “unacceptable”.

He said patients should always be able to be treated if their doctors said they needed it.

He reiterated his edict this June, after a study found nine in 10 local health authorities were imposing tight thresholds on at least one treatment deemed to be either ‘non-urgent’ or of ‘low clinical value’.

However, there are still widespread bans in place, according to a survey of 682 family doctors by GP magazine. It found 35 per cent said authorities or commissioners were restricting access on the base of cost alone.

GPs who responded to the survey said they were being forced to “fob off” patients until they could refer them on.

Some PCTs were not imposing blanket bans as such, but making it more and more difficult for patients to qualify for treatment, for example by raising the threshold of pain and immobility needed to qualify for a joint replacement.

One wrote the PCT was “not imposing a blanket ban, but it is made increasingly difficult in terms of the hoops you have to jump through to obtain funding, even to get a patient seen for an ever growing list of conditions.”

Some feel Mr Lansley had it both ways on the issue – on the one hand restricting funding and then blaming PCTs who had to reduce their spending.

One respondent said Mr Lansley had been “asking the impossible, with GP commissioners being the fall guys”.

Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chairman of the British Medical Association’s GP committee, called on Jeremy Hunt, Andrew Lansley’s replacement to sort out the problem.

He told GP: “’The Department of Health has repeatedly said it would prevent PCTs and clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) from rationing treatments on cost alone.

“They are clearly not doing that and need to start putting words into action,” he said.  “This will be a big challenge for the new health secretary, and one he needs to address quickly.”

According to the poll, GPs seem to be strongly in favour of an England-wide list of services it will not fund, to eliminate the current postcode lottery.


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