Welwyn Hatfield patients consulted on proposals to cut NHS services

PUBLISHED: 10:38 07 July 2017 | UPDATED: 14:45 07 July 2017

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People across Hertfordshire are being asked for their views on a raft of NHS proposals affecting the treatment of people who are obese, smoke, those who receive food supplements, suffer from celiac disease, want sterilisation or IVF.

Proposals have been put forward by NHS East and North Hertfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, which commissions services for people in Welwyn Hatfield, and NHS Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which covers St Albans and Hertsmere.

These proposals are:

• Tightening up existing rules so that people who smoke or whose weight is classified as

‘obese’ are required to make bigger improvements to their health before non-urgent surgery – unless a longer wait for surgery would be harmful

• Limiting the routine prescription of food supplements, as well as medicines and products that can be bought without prescription for short-term conditions and minor ailments

• Restricting the prescribing of gluten-free foods

• Stopping NHS funding for female sterilisation procedures

• Reducing or stopping the availability of NHS-funded IVF (in vitro fertilisation) and specialist fertility services, apart from in exceptional circumstances (West Essex CCG is also consulting its residents on this issue).

Currently, NHS-funded IVF as been suspended by NHS Herts Valleys, which used to offer just one cycle.

In contrast, NHS East and North Herts CCG is continuing to offer three NHS-funded cycles.

The two CCGs state: “The consultations are being launched as Hertfordshire’s CCGs face a range of challenges.

“The number of people who need health service support is increasing and many people are living longer, often with complex conditions.

“National and local shortages of NHS staff mean that we have to make sure that doctors’, nurses’ and other specialists’ time is used wisely.

“We also need to encourage people to think carefully about their own wellbeing so that they live healthier lives, avoid preventable illnesses and have the very best chance of recovering well from surgery.”

Dr Hari Pathmanathan, a Hertfordshire GP and chair of East and North Hertfordshire CCG, said: “These proposals aren’t unique to Hertfordshire – some of the changes we are putting forward for consideration have already taken place in other areas and some are being considered nationally.

“Not all of 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 that our proposed changes have the potential to make a difference to some people’s lives.

“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, chair 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 within our organisations, making plans to make more efficient use of technology and buildings and working with those 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, who make up the majority of people on the CCG board, have been heavily involved in developing proposals.

“This will help to ensure that good clinical practice is paramount in our considerations.

“We are keen to discuss these proposals with local residents and we have arranged lots of opportunities for this to happen.”

Details of all these events and the consultation can be found at

www.healthierfuture.org.uk/NHSLetsTalk

The consultation closes on September 14.

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