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NHS plans to cut certain routine tests as part of cost-saving efforts

Under proposed plans tests will only be used in exceptional situations

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The NHS has plans to ‘ration’ some 34 routine tests under a new drive to cut costs, according to a list seen by The Guardian.

The list includes diagnostic tests and treatments that patients will only be able to access via the NHS in exceptional situations. Among the tests on the list are ones which are used to detect cancer and arthritis, as well as surgery for kidney stones, back problems and sinus infections.

Also part of the cost-cutting drive are routine procedures such as CT and MRI scans, certain blood tests and X-rays.

According to The Guardian, patients will be encouraged to use physiotherapy or painkillers as treatment for arthritic pain as opposed to an exploratory operation called arthroscopy. Kidney stones would also be treated differently with sound wave therapy rather than surgery removal, according to the report.

Responding to the list, an NHS spokesperson said the document was out of date and has been neither approved or implemented. However, they did say that there was “strong support from senior doctors in the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges for action to eliminate wasteful interventions that don’t benefit patients”.

However, The Patients Association has raised concerns that if these proposed changes were implemented, that patients may be forced to endure pain or be forced to pay for private care.

“We are unhappy at any new barriers being erected between patients and the treatments they need,” said Rachel Power, chief executive of The Patients Association.

“As a result of this rationing, we know that patients who can afford to pay privately are doing so, while those who can’t are going without and suffering. This is exactly what having an NHS is supposed to prevent,” she added.

The NHS has been a hotly debated topic among parties’ campaigning ahead of the upcoming 12 December general election.

The Labour party has said it will raise the funding it will commit to NHS England in 2023-24 to £155bn. The Conservatives, on the other hand, have promised to increase the health budget by £33.9bn by 2023-24, including a £1.8bn fund for capital investments.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also recently claimed that a leaked version of a 451-page dossier shows that drug pricing changes and extending patent life featured prominently in early UK-US trade talks, with the NHS part of a potential transatlantic deal.

The government has denied the claims, with Health Secretary Matt Hancock telling the BBC Today programme that the documents actually show that “the Americans don’t think it is something they are going to ask for…very sensibly because we are crystal clear that it isn’t an area on which we are prepared to give ground”.

Article by
Lucy Parsons

2nd December 2019

From: Healthcare

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