Patients waiting for hip and knee surgery are suffering in pain for longer periods of time after being denied surgery to save money, it has been claimed.
The findings come after 692 surgeons in England sent the BBC information about their primary care trust’s policy on hip and knee replacement.
The data shows that 152 specialists said patients now have to be more disabled or in greater pain, while just over 100 said that routine operations had been put on hold in their area. Some 118 surgeons said hip and knee surgery had been regarded as a procedure of low priority.
British Orthopaedic Association president Peter Kay told the broadcaster: “General practitioners were told not to send as many patients to hospital, maybe to delay referrals until the end of the financial year while perhaps introducing thresholds for surgery.
“In other words, reassessing patients to make sure they were really quite bad before they progressed through the system,” he said.
Mr Kay said that with the “bars being raised”, patients who may have got surgery in the past are now being denied the procedures they require.
“They’re waiting longer in pain, they’re suffering for longer, before perhaps they represent later on, actually demanding the operation again, because they’re so much worse.
“There is evidence that waiting does make a difference. If patients wait for several months, during that time the condition of their joint can deteriorate, the bone can become more damaged, the muscles aren’t used as much so when they come to surgery, the surgery can be much more difficult.
“It takes the patient a lot longer to recover afterwards. We do know from this nationally collected data that patients that were really very bad before they had their surgery, actually don’t do quite as well as patients that were not quite as bad when they had the surgery performed.
“If you wait longer the result might not be as good at the end of the day.”
A Department for Health spokesman said: “When clinicians and patients are making decisions about joint replacement surgery, it is right that other procedures - which could provide better outcomes for patients and provide better value for taxpayers - are also considered.
“We expect the local NHS to make decisions based on the clinical needs of its patients, making the most efficient use of its funding. However, there is no excuse for the NHS to let waiting times slip.”