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Treatment restrictions 'unacceptable'

A survey shows that pressure on the NHS to cut costs has led to restrictions in access to non-urgent procedures, according to reports from the Plymouth Herald, GP Magazine and ITV Daybreak.

Health Minister Simon Burns said rationing treatment on grounds of cost was "totally unacceptable" and decisions on treating patients should be made solely on clinical grounds.

Trusts have been warned they could face action by the Health Secretary over the survey's findings.

The Health Minister’s comments follow a freedom of information request lodged by GP magazine, which revealed that pressure to save money led to 90% of primary care trusts to restrict procedures including hip, knee and cataract operations, weight-loss surgery and tonsillectomies.

Information from about 66% of the 151 primary care trusts showed nine in 10 had procedures to restrict GP referrals for procedures deemed to be non-urgent or of low clinical value.

NHS Devon assistant director of public health Tracey Polak told the Plymouth Herald: "We are currently reviewing our local NHS clinical policies to make sure they are consistent across Devon, Plymouth and Torbay.

"We commission bariatric surgery in accordance to NICE guidance and there is no restriction locally on cataract surgery or joint surgery, although we do recommend somepatients lose weight to maximise the benefit of surgery and reduce the possibility of complications.

"Patients who do not meet the relevant criteria, but are able to show they would benefit clinically from the treatment, are welcome to apply through our exceptionaltreatments panel."