Agony of patients forced to wait six months for NHS treatment

editorial image

More than one in 10 people in Haywards Heath over the age of 60 have waited almost six months for an operation or medical tests on the NHS.

That’s according to research highlighted this week by the not-for-profit private health provider Nuffield Health.

The company says that the long wait for treatment is impacting on patients’ mental and emotional wellbeing.

The company has released its findings at the same time as it has been revealed that NHS treatment for a string of ailments are being rationed for people living in Mid Sussex, Horsham and Crawley.

Among NHS treatments no longer routinely funded locally are life-changing cataract operations - and that’s despite local health authorities being told months ago that rationing for such ops must stop.

Patients are being denied surgery in defiance of official guidelines from the Department of Health - unless their eyesight is deemed sufficiently poor.

The Horsham, Mid Sussex and Crawley Clinical Commissioning Groups - which are responsible for paying for local health services - say they do not routinely fund cataract operations. Only those who score worst in tests are considered for surgery.

And that is despite official guidelines from NICE, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, which told health authorities last October that it was ‘crucial that patients, who will benefit from cataract surgery, are able to access it, whether for their first eye or second eye operation.’

NICE added: “Any arbitrary use of visual thresholds for referral or surgery which restricts access, creates inequitable care and is not justified.” It said cataract surgery was cost effective and could prevent people from suffering further health problems.

Meanwhile, patients are also being told that ‘minor’ operations - from investigative joint surgery, haemorrhoid removal, skin lesion treatment and treatment for varicose veins - are also no longer being routinely funded by the NHS.

The commmissioning groups - which have been placed in ‘special measures’ by NHS England after being rated ‘inadequate’ because of massive overspend in their budgets - say they have “designated a number of procedures as low priority for NHS funding.”

They have previously said there is no ‘blanket ban’ and that individual funding requests can be made to the CCGs by patients’ GPs, whose practices are separately funded by the NHS.

Meanwhile, Roger Skipp, director of Nuffield Health’s Haywards Heath Hospital, said: “It’s disheartening to know that people can be missing out on major events and activities in their later years, because of waiting for medical tests and treatment.

“With no waiting lists at our hospitals and a bespoke recovery plan, we’re able to help people get back to being themselves, and getting on with life, as quickly as possible.”

Nuffield Health also offers Private GP services.

The Mid Sussex, Horsham and Crawley commissioning groups have been approached to comment on why they are not adhering to NICE guidelines on cataract surgery but have not yet responded.