NHS chief warns PCTs over rationing

Reports of widespread restrictions on cataract surgery have prompted the NHS medical director to warn PCTs that it is their legal responsibility to provide healthcare.

Professor Bruce Keogh: 'Rationing services on the basis of cost alone is wrong'
Professor Bruce Keogh: 'Rationing services on the basis of cost alone is wrong'

Professor Bruce Keogh will write to PCT chief executives and the wider NHS warning that it is 'unacceptable' and 'unethical' to blanket ban treatment, GP understands.

He will remind PCTs it is their legal duty to ensure access to treatment when advised by a clinician.

It comes after a damning study by Imperial College London researchers, which found half of PCTs have policies to restrict cataract surgery. By doing so, almost all of these trusts are failing to follow national guidelines or clinical evidence.

In a statement, Professor Keogh said: 'Rationing services on the basis of cost alone is wrong - it compromises clinical values and patient care.

'We have consistently taken a firm line that imposing blanket bans for any treatment on the basis of cost is unethical and have made it clear it is unacceptable for PCTs to put caps on the number of people who can have certain operations.

'Decisions on treatments, including suitability for surgery, should be made by clinicians taking the needs of each individual into account.'

He added: 'I will be writing to the NHS once again to reiterate their legal responsibilities in making sure patients get the treatment they need.'

On Friday, the president of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists, Professor Harminder Dua, told GP there was now clear evidence of rationing 'driven by financial considerations' following the Imperial College London study.

He urged ministers to keep their promise to take action against PCTs that do not follow national guidelines, which has led to thousands of elderly people denied surgery.

In July, former health secretary Andrew Lansley said the DH 'will not allow NHS commissioners to impose blanket bans'.

Yet, earlier this month a GP poll revealed more than a third of GPs say their PCT is still rationing care on the basis of cost alone.

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