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Fewer operations as skint trusts forced to ration key services

Surgery for knees, hips and eyes all fell to their lowest level for several years in order to save money

Tory betrayal of the NHS is starting to bite with more and more trusts forced to heavily ration services in a desperate bid to stay afloat.

Surgery for knees, hips and eyes all fell to their lowest level for several years in order to save money, data from health analysis firm Dr Foster showed.

Dr Foster director of research Roger Taylor said: "Across England as a whole, austerity has caused the NHS to be more careful about the way it spends money on planned care and to cut waste."

The number of knee operations has been rising steadily since 2002 against a background of an increasingly ageing population but fell for the first time last year.

And while cataract operations had also risen, the number started dropping in 2009 and there are now fewer taking place than in 2008.

A spokesman for Dr Foster said it was likely that trusts were changing the thresholds at which people get treatment.

This means people who would have got an operation in the past either did not qualify or may have to wait.

The report showed that 24 per cent of people lived in areas where the number of hip, knee and eye operations were cut.

Royal National Institute of Blind People head of campaigns Steve Winyard called it "scandalous" that some commissioners continue to restrict access to cataract surgery through the use of arbitrary thresholds and decried it as "simply unacceptable."

He said: "NHS 'efficiency savings' achieved by cutting cataract operations are a false economy as denying treatment leaves patients at risk of depression, social isolation and fall-related hip fractures, which are more costly to treat."

Patients Association chief executive Katherine Murphy said the findings are evidence of "an NHS under financial strain where the Nicholson Challenge is really starting to bite." NHS head David Nicholson has demanded the service save £20 billion by 2015.

Head of health Christina McAnea at public-sector union Unison stated angrily: "It is shameful that rationing is leaving patients in pain and waiting for months on end before they receive life-enhancing operations."


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