NHS to scrap 'unnecessary' operations in cost-cutting measure

Some types of surgery are to be scrapped on the NHS
Some types of surgery are to be scrapped on the NHS

'Unnecessary' operations including tonsil removal and varicose vein surgery are to be scrapped on the NHS.

Hundreds of thousands of NHS patients will be refused operations judged futile as part of cost-cutting measures in the health service.

Procedures including injections for back pain, surgery to help snorers and knee arthroscopies for arthritis form part of an initial list of 17 operations that will be discontinued completely or highly restricted by NHS England as many of these problems get better without treatment.

The health service hopes the measures will save £200m a year by reducing risky or unnecessary procedures. It will tell patients they have a responsibility to the NHS not to request useless treatment.

Varicose vein surgery and tonsil removal also feature on the list of routine operations to be axed as part of NHS England’s drive to cease outdated and ineffective treatments.

The routine procedures are performed about 350,00 times a year and cost more than £400m. NHS bosses hope to stop at least 100,000 operations, saving £200m.

Steve Powis, the medical director of NHS England, told a national newspaper: “I’m confident there is more to be done”, adding that the list of 17 operations formed “the first stage” of rooting out futile treatments that are believed to cost taxpayers £2bn a year.

“We are also going to ask ‘Are there other procedures and treatments we should add to the list?’,” Powis said.

Additions could include general anaesthetics for hip and shoulder dislocations and brain scans for patients with migraines.

“We have to spend taxpayers’ money wisely,” he said. “Therefore, if we are spending money on procedures that are not effective, that is money we could spend on new treatments that are clinically effective and would provide benefits to patients. It’s absolutely correct that, in getting more efficient, one component of that is to make sure we are not undertaking unnecessary procedures.”

The news comes as the government prepares to raise taxes and ditch an increase to the personal income tax allowance to pay for NHS funding plans. According to proposals, £20.5bn of extra funding would be set aside for the health service by 2023.