Anger as plan to extend ‘lifestyle rationing’ for hip and knee operations is revealed in letter.
NHS bosses are planning a massive expansion of the controversial rationing that forces smokers and obese patients to wait months in pain before they can have surgery, a leaked letter reveals.
The move will see local NHS bodies across England implement restrictions on access to treatment that will hit what doctors’ leaders believe will be tens of thousands of patients.
The plan is disclosed in a letter sent on 15 March by Dr David Black, NHS England’s medical director for Yorkshire and the Humber, to Rotherham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG). In it, he praises the GP-led group that controls the NHS budget for treating the town’s residents for introducing what critics call “lifestyle rationing”, which compels dangerously overweight patients or those who smoke to wait for hip or knee surgery. “We are very supportive of your work to best manage resources for the benefit of all patients and understand that this may mean that difficult decisions need to be made,” Black wrote.
And he added: “We expect that many CCGs will be in the process of developing similar schemes and initiatives to deliver plans for 2017-19. This is something we would encourage, where plans are well developed and clinically validated.” He then told the CCG to give him four weeks’ warning of any further plans “to change access thresholds” so that NHS England can prepare for the fallout.
The move has triggered a storm of protest, with ex-health minister Norman Lamb warning that condemning patients to long, painful delays for care is destroying the NHS’s fundamental principles and obliging those affected to pay for private treatment.