DH rationing review ignored use of thresholds to limit treatment

Ministers have admitted that a DH investigation into rationing in the NHS only looked at caps on activity and not at thresholds to accessing treatments.

Lord Howe: no evidence services are being restricted without clinical justification
Lord Howe: no evidence services are being restricted without clinical justification

GP magazine’s investigations into the extent of rationing in the NHS have been mentioned repeatedly by Labour MPs in parliamentary debates about the health service. Labour has also urged the DH to investigate rationing.

Health minister Earl Howe has now written to Labour peer Lord Hunt of King’s Heath to ‘clarify’ a parliamentary response he gave to Conservative peer Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior. In that response, Earl Howe cited a Co-operation and Competition Panel review of rationing in the NHS.

Earl Howe said in his letter that the panel had ‘considered cases of restrictions to patient choice, for example, those arising from inappropriate use of activity caps, and that these were banned’. He added: ‘However, I should clarify that it did not consider clinical eligibility criteria for access to treatments.’

Earl Howe went on to say ‘there is no evidence to suggest that commissioners are restricting services without clinical justification’.

He said: ‘We have been clear that it is completely unacceptable to impose blanket bans on treatments, or to restrict access to treatments on the basis of cost alone. We have made it clear that we will take action against any organisation found to be arbitrarily restricting treatment without clinical justification.’

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