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Saturday, 22 July 2006 10:11
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
NHS cash 'wasted on operations'
Prof Sir Liam Donaldson, the Chief Medical Officer said yesterday that billions of pounds of NHS money is being wasted every year because of variations in treatment which give rise to thousands of unnecessary operations.

Launching his annual report for England, Prof Sir Liam Donaldson, called for an end to the "unacceptable" variations which were endemic, costly and unfair.

He said some of the variation in clinical practice was on account of the preferences and habits of doctors and hospitals rather than on the needs of the patients.

For example, he said that some hospitals around the country have continued to carry out hysterectomies to treat women with excessive menstrual bleeding even though guidelines recommend that effective drugs may be used instead.

While hysterectomy rates have fallen by as much as 64% in north and central London, they have dropped by only 15% in Northumberland, Tyne and Wear.

Sir Liam said: "In my view, this level of variation in clinical practice is not acceptable."

"If hysterectomy in England could be reduced to an appropriate level across the country we would avoid nearly 6,000 operations and save more than £15 million annually”.

Prescribing patterns, tonsillectomy rates among children and treatment of people with coronary heart disease also vary unacceptably across the country, he said.

Sir Liam also warned that public health campaign budgets for areas like smoking and obesity should not be "raided" to pay for NHS deficits.

Sir Liam has also unveiled plans to set up a committee to discuss the ethical questions surrounding pandemic flu, such as who should get priority for the vaccine and on what basis critical care beds would be allocated.

Sir Liam said: "I am setting down a challenge to commissioners of health services - to reaffirm their commitment to the principle of equity and ensure their patients receive a fair service and the care they need”.

Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Secretary, Steve Webb MP said: "This report shows that health inequalities still run deeply through our society.”People still face an unfair postcode lottery in accessing health services across the country, which bears little relation to need.

"Health needs around the country would be best met by democratic community bodies giving local people a direct say in the services they need”.

Conservative Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: "This report is a big wake-up call for the Government.

"We know there are initiatives that work and would improve health outcomes, but are not being rolled out because of financial problems in other parts of the NHS. Ring-fenced budgets must be allocated, so that the budget is not subordinated to external pressures”.

Joe Korner of The Stroke Association welcomed Sir Liam's report.

He said: "Stroke services are patchy across the country and it is vital that these are improved to save lives and improve outcomes for the estimated 150,000 people that have a stroke in the UK each year”.

A spokeswoman for the British Heart Foundation said: "We must make sure treatments are available to people who need them. Treatment must be based on need rather than postcode, and commissioning should consistently consider socio economic status and ethnicity”.
   


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