Everyday medicines like painkillers, hay fever drugs and cough mixture will no longer be paid for by the NHS under plans to save the cash-strapped health service hundreds of millions of pounds.
NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens has also warned patients they will face longer waits for operations such as knee and hip replacements in a “trade-off” for improved care in other areas.
Increasing demand has put the NHS under extreme pressure in recent years, meaning hospitals can no longer guarantee treatment in the 18-week target time.
However, the move has been criticised by the British Medical Association (BMA) and the Royal College of Surgeons.
The BMA’s Dr Mark Porter said: “Achieving one delivery promise only by missing another is a textbook example of rationing access to care. It should not be happening in today’s NHS.”
Clare Marx, President of the Royal College of Surgeons in England, said the delays could have serious consequences. “Our concern is not only for hip and knee patients but those patients who perhaps are waiting for heart surgery. They may have a heart attack whilst they are waiting.”
Meanwhile, Age UK said the plans would lead to “misery and pain” for older people. Under the measures, GPs will have to cut the number of patients they refer to hospital and use alternatives such as physio instead.
Mr Stevens, who was unveiling a progress report on his five-year strategy for the health service launched in 2014, said in return there would be quicker cancer and A&E care. “There is a trade-off here – we do expect there will be some marginal lengthening of waiting lists, but this will still represent a strong, quick experience compared to 10 years ago, let alone 20.”
Patients waiting for a hospital operation are meant to be seen within 18 weeks – but there are currently more than 360,000 patients on the waiting list who have waited longer than that.
Last summer, the scale of the financial crisis facing the NHS was laid bare after more than 50 hospitals were given permission to miss key waiting times to help ease their fiscal difficulties.
How can our Medical Negligence Lawyers help you?
The NHS is held in the highest regard in the UK – and rightly so. But when mistakes are made and the duty of care to which patients are entitled is not met, it’s important to hold the health service to account.
Making a claim could result in financial help to deal with the consequences of an error and could go some way to ensuring the same mistake isn’t repeated.
Gotelee has a wealth of experience in this area and can advise you whether or not you have the basis of a claim. If you do, we can support you through the process at any of our offices in Ipswich, Hadleigh, Felixstowe, Woodbridge or Melton.
To find out more, call us on 01473 298125.