Patients across England may be removed from surgery waiting lists after some NHS trusts changed the criteria for operations*.
The move, which has been publically condemned by the Royal College of Surgeons, has resulted in numerous patients who were initially assessed as needing operations, being ‘re-categorised’ as no longer being in need of surgery.
The NHS constitution states that no patient should wait longer than 18 weeks for treatment after referral from their GP, and those NHS trusts that have too many people waiting longer will face heavy fines.
However, figures released earlier this year showed that waiting times for elective surgery had risen by six per cent in 2010/11, and that access to cataract surgery is being limited by more than half of the NHS trusts in England.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley commented on the changes, which were uncovered by BBC Radio 4’s File on 4 programme. He said: “I have made it clear… that you cannot have blanket bans on treatment. You have to assess every patient on their merits.
“In the past… there has been what are effectively bureaucratic rules, the purpose of which is to try to limit the number of referrals.
“We are very clear that is not the basis on which referral should be undertaken – they should be undertaken on the basis of a judgment of clinical priority.”
Westfield Health recently launched a new corporate health insurance product – Hospital Treatment Insurance (HTI), which provides employees with fast access to a wide range of surgical and medical procedures.
Launched in response to the changes in the NHS, cover starts from £1.24 per employee, per week and there are two levels to choose from. HTI enables employees to receive treatment at any hospital in the UK where private treatment packages are available.
It covers a wide range of common non-urgent operations such as hip and knee replacements, as well as those that treat slipped discs, varicose veins, cataracts, abdominal hernias and gynaecological problems.
Following referral from a consultant, employees are allocated a case manager who will source and arrange a private treatment package to suit their needs.
Hospital Treatment Insurance is available as a standalone product or, for more comprehensive cover, it can be used in conjunction with a new or existing health cash plan.
Published on westfieldhealth.com on 13th June 2012