Despite the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, announcing £8 billion worth of additional funding for the NHS by 2020, the health service must still make £22 billion in efficiency savings over the same period if it is to close the £30 billion funding gap that has appeared.
It’s a situation that might provide some rationale for the healthcare restrictions that is apparently occurring across the NHS, which was brought to light by a recent poll of GPs.
Conducted by Pulse Magazine, the survey of 652 GPs suggests that health trust bosses are denying patients access to vital surgeries, like joint replacements, as well as other routine treatments in a bid to save money. In some instances, people are even being denied hearing aids, according to the survey.
In addition, many healthcare bosses have reportedly imposed strict policies which state that people must lose weight or give up smoking before being granted access to vital medical procedures.
The fact that the NHS was founded on the very principle of being free at the point of need makes the situation “unacceptable” in the eyes of many GPs.
Over a third (36%) of GPs surveyed said that health bosses in their area had tightened restrictions over the past 12 months.
NHS Still ‘Under Financial Pressure’
Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chairman of the British Medical Association’s GP Committee, said: “Where patients may have waited three months, they now wait six – this sort of thing is difficult to measure.
“Until we get new funding into the NHS we will continue to come under financial pressure and it will get worse.”
The NHS is also saving billions of pounds by treating patients as day cases instead of on an inpatient basis, according to a leading health economist.
John Appleby, chief economist at the King’s Fund health charity, suggests that surgery carried out as day cases may have helped the NHS realise savings of £2 billion over the last 15 years.
Published in the British Medical Journal, the study says that this figure is likely to be an overestimate, but that if current trends continue, it will have a significant impact in future years.
“Assuming the proportion of day cases continues to increase at the same rate for the next decade as it has done in the 15 years since 1998, then, all other things being equal, the total spent on elective care in 2013 would pay for 22% more patient episodes in 2023,” writes Professor Appleby.
Day case patients inevitably cost less to treat than overnight inpatients and so as the proportion of them increases the overall costs are reduced, says Professor Appleby. To put things into perspective, the average cost of a day case patient in 2013-2014 was £698 compared with £3,375 for an overnight inpatient.
Back in 1974, just 7% of all surgical procedures were carried out on a day case basis. This figure had risen to 35% by 2013.
With the NHS continually looking to make savings, having private health insurance is an increasingly attractive option. It takes away the worry of NHS waiting lists and enables you to get treated, and back to full health quickly.
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