• Redditch and Bromsgrove, South Worcestershire and Wyre Forest CCGs seek feedback on service cuts
  • Proposals include restricting access to hearing aids, sterilisation and treatments for patients with “unhealthy lifestyles”
  • CCGs say savings needed to fill £25m funding gap next year

FINANCE: A group of clinical commissioning groups in the Midlands have outlined proposals for wide ranging restrictions to NHS services in order to close a £25m funding gap.

The ideas include restricting access to knee and hip operations, no longer providing hearing aids for people with mild hearing loss, and restricting access to some treatments “for patients who have unhealthy lifestyles”.

Redditch and Bromsgrove, South Worcestershire and Wyre Forest CCGs said they would spend £25m more than their combined budgets in 2016-17 if they did not make changes.

The CCGs said they needed to “find ways of reducing costs in some areas… to protect other essential services”.

The groups are carrying out a survey of the changes they are considering, but stressed they were “just ideas” and no decisions had yet been made.

The options include restricting access to:

  • Physiotherapy for minor injuries
  • Knee and hip replacements
  • Hearing aids for people with mild hearing loss
  • Chiropody not associated with long term conditions such as diabetes
  • IVF
  • Gluten free foods on prescription
  • “Over the counter” medicines for short term minor conditions
  • Cataract surgery for people with mild vision difficulties
  • Vasectomies and female sterilisation
  • Some treatments for patients with “unhealthy lifestyles”
  • “Non health essential treatments” (for example conditions such as excessive sweating and erectile dysfunction)
  • Procedures which have “limited medical benefit (such as treating hernias and removing tonsils)

In addition to these service cuts, the CCGs are seeking feedback on possible changes to primary care, community services and continuing healthcare.

These include encouraging GPs to offer urgent appointments to patients registered with other practices to cut urgent and emergency visits, reducing the opening hours of minor injury units to save money, and capping continuing healthcare payments.

Other CCGs to recently include limitations on access for financial reasons include Mid Essex CCG, which in January decided to press ahead with proposals to stop routine funding of gluten free foods, vasectomies and female sterilisation. It had already introduced severe restrictions to IVF services.

In October North Staffordshire CCG restricted access to publicly funded hearing aids for the first time in NHS history.