Millions lost on unnecessary surgical procedures

The NHS could save tens of millions of pounds by restricting access to tonsillectomy, hysterectomy and caesarean section, according to the Association of Directors of Public Health.

Dr Tim Crayford, president of the Association, today addressed the New Health Network Conference and called for NICE to urgently issue guidance.

Dr Crayford said: ‘All of these operations have value in certain circumstances, but a mixture of custom and resistance to change has created a new type of clinical waste.’

There is relatively little clinical value in tonsillectomy, yet the NHS spends roughly £40 million a year, said Dr Crayford.

Over £100 million is spent each year on hysterectomy. However, chief medical officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, has highlighted that newer treatments are available which are just as effective as hysterectomy in many cases. ‘The NHS needs to ensure that hysterectomy is offered when non-surgical alternatives have been considered.’

Dr Crayford recognised that Caesarean section was frequently a life-saving procedure, but he felt that £50 million additional cost suggested we are doing ‘more than is necessary.’

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