Public consultation launches after NHS funding crisis prompts plans to restrict health services in Hertfordshire
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A funding crisis has led to a raft of proposed health cuts in Hertfordshire which includes axing NHS-funded IVF and forcing smokers and obese patients to make bigger health improvements before surgery.
The East and North Hertfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group is responsible for planning and paying for NHS services in our region and, together with NHS Herts Valleys CCG, has launched a public consultation over proposals to restrict health services.
Without action, the health and care funding gap for Hertfordshire and west Essex is forecast to reach £550 million by 2021.
The plan is to tighten up existing rules so people who smoke or are obese must make bigger improvements to their health before non-urgent surgery – unless a longer wait for surgery would be harmful.
NHS-funded IVF and specialist fertility services would either stop or be reduced, and NHS funding for female sterilisation procedures would stop.
Limitations would apply to the prescription of medicines and products that can be bought without prescription for short-term conditions and minor ailments.
The prescribing of gluten-free foods and the routine prescription of food supplements would also be restricted.
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The Hertfordshire CCGs are facing a range of challenges, including a shortage of NHS staff at a time when the number of people who need health service support is increasing and many people are living longer, often with complex conditions.
Paul Regan, for watchdog Healthwatch Hertfordshire, said: “We don’t want to see services adversely affected, but we do understand the situation.
“We live in a world where services are being cut. It’s worrying, and understandably so.
“The brutal fact is there are going to be some really tough decisions.
“The conversation has changed from maintaining services to changing services. Things are not going to be delivered in the same way due to financial pressures.
“It’s vital patients express their views. People need to hold the CCGs to account.”
Dr Hari Pathmanathan, a Hertfordshire GP and chairman of the East and North Hertfordshire CCG, said: “Not all the proposals will save money. Some are designed to encourage patients to make potentially life-saving changes to their health, and others should help to free up GP appointment time as patients use the expertise of community pharmacists to advise on minor illnesses.
“We recognise our proposed changes have the potential to make a difference to some people’s lives, and that’s why we are committed to reaching as many people as we possibly can to seek views on these proposals.
“We will be holding public events across Hertfordshire, attending community meetings and running an extensive social media campaign.”
Dr Nicolas Small, chairman of Herts Valleys CCG, said: “We have been working with East and North Hertfordshire CCG to explore options for reducing spending in response to growing financial pressures.
“Wherever possible we are looking to make savings that won’t affect patients. We’re cutting administration costs, making plans to make more efficient use of technology and buildings, and working with organisations that directly provide services to deliver best value for money.
“However, these measures alone won’t cover the whole shortfall and there are other steps we need to take.
“Doctors have been heavily involved in developing proposals. This will help to ensure good clinical practice is paramount in our considerations.”
A public meeting will be held next Thursday, July 20, from 1.30pm to 3pm at Stevenage Arts and Leisure Centre. Call 01707 685140 to register your attendance. Another is scheduled for Letchworth’s Mrs Howard Memorial Hall between 7pm to 8.30pm on September 5.
To see the consultation documents and give your views, visit www.healthierfuture.org.uk/NHSLetsTalk before September 14.