NHS urged to axe 'ineffective' ops
The NHS could save up to £500 million a year by carrying out fewer "ineffective" operations such as removing tonsils and wisdom teeth, a study has found.
According to the Audit Commission, the savings could be put towards other treatments with better outcomes for patients. It said a clearer approach among Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) to what it called "ineffective or inefficient treatments" would ensure more consistency across the country.
The briefing, Reducing expenditure on low clinical value treatments, looked at how some PCTs have decommissioned treatments of low clinical value, but it found the lists of treatments they targeted varied.
It identified operations such as tonsillectomies as "relatively ineffective", and hysterectomy procedures in cases of heavy menstrual bleeding were less cost-effective than other alternatives.
The report also found the balance between the benefit and risk in wisdom teeth extraction to be very close, and it said orthodontic procedures were "potentially cosmetic". It said the potential for reducing spending varied between PCTs, but based on one of the more widely-used lists, some could save more than £12 million each year by axing the treatments.
The Audit Commission said decommissioning treatments could be "controversial and raise ethical questions", and urged PCTs to work together alongside GPs and hospital consultants.
Andy McKeon, managing director of health at the Audit Commission, said: "PCTs were keen that the commission looked into how best to tackle this sensitive issue as they have all been developing their own approaches. We were surprised at the variety of lists used.
"PCTs across the country are currently paying for treatments that cost the taxpayer money, and according to clinical experts have little or no real value to patients. This needs to change."
Health Minister Anne Milton said: "This report shows why we cannot simply keep pouring money into an inefficient system without making improvements. Our plans to modernise the NHS will help to ensure that we cut bureaucracy and reinvest resources into improving the quality of care and outcomes for patients.
"Decisions on the appropriate treatments should always be led by clinicians who know their patients best, in line with Nice guidance. We would not recommend creating definitive lists of ineffective or inefficient procedures without a clear consensus from those who are experts in the field."