Lansley says 'unacceptable' for PCTs to ration care

Health secretary Andrew Lansley said it is 'unacceptable' for PCTs to ration care and that patients should be considered for treatment on the basis of their clinical need.

Mr Lansley said the widespread rationing of certain treatments by PCTs as revealed by GP magazine this week, would be less likely to happen when clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) replace PCTs next April.

A GP Freedom of Information investigation revealed that 91% of PCTs are imposing thresholds or limits on ‘non-urgent’ or ‘low clinical value' treatments such as hip, knee and cataract operations.

In an interview on Wednesday after his speech to the NHS Confederation’s annual conference in Manchester, Mr Lansley said: ‘It is a comprehensive health service and the services that are available must be comprehensively available. It doesn’t mean every patient should have whatever they want at any given moment but they must be assessed for their clinical priority and need. CCGs will be stronger where this is concerned because you won’t be sitting there with GPs saying: "I think this is the treatment you should have but the PCT says you can’t have it" because the GPs will have a collective responsibility to make sure that they do have the referral pathways available they need for their patients.’

Mr Lansley said he told PCTs in November that such practices were completely unacceptable.

He said: ‘Often in the past we have seen these reports. Quite often when you explore what is happening - what the PCTs are setting out to do - is to have proper referral management, proper clinical criteria for referrals and it gets confused with blanket bans on treatments. There have been instances where PCTs have put blanket plans on treatments and that is unacceptable and we have said so. We said so in November. We made that absolutely clear. Patients must be considered on the basis of their clinical need and priority and on an individual basis.’

This comes after health minister Simon Burns said that PCT and CCG leaders could be sacked if the care restrictions exposed in GP’s investigation remained.

He said: ‘If it is proven that it is going on, and it is contrary to the guidance, the secretary of state has the powers with regard to the organisation of PCTs to both remove non-executives from the PCTs if they are not prepared to change the practices and to remove the chair.'

  • Follow our reporter Marina Soteriou on Twitter @Marina_Soteriou for live NHS Confederation conference updates today #confed2012

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