A primary care trust in Kent has become the latest to announce it is reducing funding for IVF and low priority procedures this year in order to tackle rising acute activity, which risks a £40m overspend.

NHS West Kent wrote to GPs at the start of the week asking them to defer referrals for gender reassignment, IVF and surgery for the obese until April.

GPs have also been asked to consider where treatment can be more appropriately provided in the community rather than in hospital.

It follows similar actions by other PCTs including NHS Yorkshire and York, NHS Warwickshire and NHS Warrington.

The Kent PCT said it was “acting swiftly and responsibly to deal with considerable pressure on the health service from unexpected increases in hospital activity, which, if unchecked, could lead to significant financial overspend”.

NHS West Kent chief executive Marion Dinwoodie said: “We need to take strong action to deal with the pressures on services and finances firmly and quickly to make sure the NHS can continue to provide the valuable care people need.

“No-one with a compelling clinical need for treatment this year will miss out, but we are asking GPs to consider if referrals for treatment like gender reassignment or IVF can be delayed until next year,” she said.

“We are also working with local GPs to make sure we can find ways of treating people out of hospital, closer to home where it’s appropriate to do so – creating benefits for patients and the taxpayer.”

Additionally, the PCT said it has been looking to develop longer-term solutions to “improve patient care while living within tighter finances”.

For example, it has identified urgent and planned care, dementia, and end-of-life care as areas that could potentially be provided more efficiently.