GP magazine’s finding that 91% of PCTs are imposing limits on ‘non-urgent’ care has received widespread media coverage and fuelled political debate this week.
The investigation also revealed that some PCTs are aiming to save around £4m by introducing limits on care in 2012/13. Others are simply hoping to control any rise in demand on services, responses to a Freedom of Information request show.
The fact-checking website Full Fact examined GP magazine's investigation and concluded: 'The research conducted by GP magazine is certainly thorough and merits serious attention by the DH.'
It added: 'This could go some way to highlighting potential cases that would concern the DH.'
Responding to GP magazine’s findings of widespread thresholds on access to care, GPSI Dr Louise Warburton, president of the Primary Care Rheumatology Society, said it was important that the NHS limited expenditure on interventions of low clinical value.
‘We are living in austere times; people in the health service are losing their jobs because PCTs and health trusts have to make global savings of 10% per annum or more,’ she said. ‘We must save resources for interventions which are definitely necessary and where patients have been adequately assessed to make sure their operation is justified.
Dr Warburton said she agreed with the GPC that such restrictions are best made on a national basis. ‘I agree that a [national] list would be a good idea then patients are not disadvantaged because of the area in which they live,’ she said.
Dr Warburton also stressed the importance of investing in interventions that had been shown to be cost effective. ‘We should be investing money in the prevention of obesity and osteoarthritis, or this problem will only get worse,' she said.
In response to GP magazine’s investigation, health secretary Andrew Lansley has said it is 'unacceptable' for PCTs to ration care and that treatment must be based on clinical need.
Health minister Simon Burns also stepped up the promise he made to GP last week to ‘take action’ against PCTs in response to the findings. He said that PCT and CCG leaders could be sacked if restrictions on care remain in place.
In addition, during prime minister's questions, Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman, standing in for Ed Miliband, raised the issue with foreign secretary William Hague, standing in for David Cameron.
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