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NHS operations ‘being rationed’

New reviews have suggested that the NHS in England appears to be rationing access to vital non-emergency hospital care.

The analysis, carried out by Dr Foster research group, focused on knee, hip and cataract operations.

With an ageing population, patient numbers have risen over the past decade. However, since 2010 the numbers have levelled off with just one in eight areas now doing more hip and knee operations. Cataract operations are at their lowest level in five years, with only one in five seeing a rise.

The report found that there was virtually no change in the overall number of operations over the past two years, with total numbers being around 475,000.

The reviews come amid mounting pressures on the NHS. The challenges facing A&E units have been well documented, however reports have emerged that non-emergency care is also being squeezed.

The results will be published in Dr Foster’s annual hospital guide, providing what is believed to be the most comprehensive picture yet of what is happening.

Roger Taylor, co-founder of Dr Foster, said the findings suggested that the tight squeeze on spending was impacting these ‘highly effective’ treatments.

"There has been a sharp slow-down in activity. We are seeing some operations fall when normally we see them increasing by 4%, 5% or 6% a year."