Limits to patients’ access to NHS services in North Kirklees

On 8th July North Kirklees NHS Clinical Commissioning Group (NK CCG), whose motto is ‘For longer, healthier, happier lives!’ hosted an ‘engagement event’ in Batley Town Hall.

Who is happier?

Who is the NHS for, these days?

Not for patients who suffer from coeliac disease, (a lifelong auto-immune disease). Gluten free staple foods needed by coeliac patients cost the NK CCG £100,000 in £2014/15 and they want to stop providing them.

Not for folk needing prescription paracetamol, costing the CCG £340,000.

Along with 2/5 of the CCGs in England, NK Kirklees CCG has plans to restrict patients’ access to a variety of services, in order to save money. A public event in Batley on 8th July heard the CCG say that a range of drugs and special diets are for the chop.

NKCCG limiting services slideIn January this year, the CCG discussed starting to limit access to a variety of treatments, including “a suggestion around cataracts”, although the report isn’t any more explicit than that. Refusing operations to smokers is on the cards – an extension of the controversial policy of “lifestyle rationing.” It seems that NK CCG also plans to use of controversial lists of “procedures of limited effectiveness”, in order to deny patients access to these treatments. The Guardian reports that surgeons, in particular, claim that these lists wrongly deny patients care.

Jeremy Taylor, chief executive of National Voices, which represents 140 health charities, said CCGs’ plans to limit access to services in order to save money were very worrying and would threaten the NHS’s status as a service that treated patients based on their clinical need.

Specialist medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell have recommended that the NHS puts the safety of patients first. Making sure that patients are able to access a high standard of care when they need it the most, regardless of where they live, is central to this.

Mandy Luckman, a partner at Irwin Mitchell, said,

“It must be ensured that any changes do not lead to a postcode lottery in terms of whether patients can access support.”

The British Medical Association chief blamed the restrictions on care on the £20bn “efficiency savings” forced on the NHS by the Coalition government over the four years since 2011, although they were planned by the New Labour government in 2010.

Plenty of NHS money for management consultants and contracts support

Commissioning Care Closer to Home services must have cost the 2 Hospital Trusts, the mental health trust (SWYFHT) the hospice, the 2 CCGs and the community provider Locala hundreds of thousands of £s. Money has been spent on contract support services bought in from management companies, managers, lawyers and financial contracting experts – plus modelling software and IT support to process ‘engagement’ results. Also venue hire and lunches, for charities/patient groups/not for profit associations/Healthwatch.

And all because NK CCG has to dance to the tune of ‘NHS England’, the quango set up through the Health and Social Care Act 2012 to control competitive commissioning of NHS services in England.

This quango, whose boss previously worked for America’s biggest health insurance company United Health, is imposing new “models of care”, copied from American private health care companies, that aim to cut £30bn/year from the NHS’s budget. Patient care will suffer.

A spokesperson for North Kirklees NHS Support Group said,

“I propose we support the NHS Reinstatement Bill in Parliament. The North Kirklees CCG’s AGM is in Cleckheaton Town Hall on Wednesday 2nd September. Tell them what you think.”

If you have been refused care by the NHS in North Kirklees or anywhere else in Calderdale and Kirklees, please email . Calderdale and Kirklees 999 Call for the NHS is campaigning to make sure that everyone gets the NHS they are entitled to, on the basis that the NHS was set up to provide health care that is based on clinical need, free at the point of need and universal, not based on a postcode lottery.

However, we need to beware that, as Professor Allyson Pollock has clarified,
CCG responsibilities for services for all people in their area are not defined, apart from emergency care: “We must also ensure, when we exercise the power to set out other persons for whom a CCG has responsibility, to provide through regulations that a CCG has responsibility for ensuring that everyone in its area can access urgent and emergency care (Lords Hansard, 02 Nov 2011: Column 1267).”

The Health and Social Care Act 2012 was drafted to allow CCGs to morph into competing insurers, with patients given vouchers (personal health budgets) to shop around, but being required to pay for anything not in the CCG’s basket. Merging free NHS care with means- tested social care, as the Care Closer to Home schemes do, will help this process. Like the American Health Maintenance Organisations, which the CCGs are modelled on, the CCGs would chose the healthy patients.

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