Lansley pledges to investigate PCT rationing

Health secretary Andrew Lansley has pledged to investigate evidence of PCTs rationing services after the issue was raised again in parliamentary questions.

Labour MPs presented Mr Lansley with evidence of a specific example of NHS Sussex denying cataract operations because of cost considerations.

Mr Lansley said: 'We will not allow NHS commissioners to impose blanket bans. I will gladly take note of and investigate that example. ... I shall respond in writing about NHS Sussex and put a copy in the Library of the House.'

A Labour spokesman said the evidence had ‘forced [Mr Lansley] to commit to an investigation’.

Last month, GP magazine revealed that more than 90% of PCTs now impose thresholds or limits on referrals for procedures deemed 'non-urgent' or of 'low clinical value'.

Labour shadow health secretary Andy Burnham cited GP’s findings during a House of Commons debate on a motion about the NHS.

The motion referred to ‘mounting evidence of rationing of treatments and services by cost, despite ministers’ claims to have prevented it’. The motion also mentioned the ‘growing gap between ministers’ statements and what is happening in the NHS’.

Mr Burnham said: ‘I was talking about rationing, and let me focus on cataract surgery. GP magazine has found limits on cataract surgery in 66% of PCTs.’

After the parliamentary debate, Mr Burnham wrote to Mr Lansley to ask for a wider investigation into PCTs’ treatment restrictions.

Labour MP for Denton and Reddish Andrew Gwynne mentioned GP’s findings alongside Labour’s own investigation of the issue during a House of Commons debate this week.

‘Aside from the evidence presented by the Labour party and the GP magazine, verified by Full Fact, PCTs acknowledge that they are restricting access to bariatric surgery,’ he said.

Mr Gwynne said it was becoming ‘increasingly clear’ that there was ‘a gap between ministers’ statements on the NHS and people’s real experience of it on the ground’.

The motion was defeated, with 303 MPs voting against it and just 228 voting for it.

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