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NHS England to stop offering ‘ineffective’ treatments

Knee arthroscopies and back pain injections will only be available on request

NHS England is planning to stop or reduce 17 routine procedures deemed to be ineffective or risky.

The proposals would see tonsils removal, breast reductions and snoring surgery offered to far fewer patients from next year.

Treatments will be offered only if they are judged to be of compelling benefit and there are no alternatives.

The plans, reported by BBC News, would affect about 100,000 people every year and free up an estimated £200m.

But David Shewring, president of the British Society for Surgery of the Hand (BSSH), warned cutting back on certain procedures would cost the economy more as people would be unable to work without surgery.

He said it was wrong to brand certain procedures unnecessary or risky.

The plans follow reviews last year to save £190m from supplying over-the-counter medications and treatments described as low value.

According to NHS England, for most of the 17 procedures under consideration alternative treatments including physiotherapy, a minor injection or change of diet are likely to be effective.

It said the savings made will be reinvested in better frontline cancer, mental health and other critical services.

Prof Stephen Powis, national medical director for NHS England, said: “If we want the very best clinical care for our patients, we need to stop putting them through treatments where risks and harms outweigh the benefits. By reducing unnecessary or risky procedures for some patients we can get better outcomes while reducing waste and targeting resource to where it is most needed.”

Under the plans, four treatments will be offered only when a patient makes an individual request: surgery for snoring; dilatation and curettage for heavy menstrual bleeding; knee arthroscopies for osteoarthritis; and injections for non-specific back pain.

A further 13 procedures will only to be offered when specific criteria are met, including breast reduction, removal of benign skin lesions, grommets for Glue Ear, tonsillectomy and haemorrhoid surgery.

NHS England plans to consult publicly on the proposals between 4 July and 28 September, with changes planned to start in 2019-20.