To acknowledge its 70th birthday the NHS cut a total of 17 procedures from its service which have been deemed as unnecessary. Among this list of abolished or highly restricted procedures include snoring surgery, breast reduction, tonsillectomy, and hysterectomy for heavy menstrual bleeding.
It is estimated that this will stop approximately 100,000 operations, saving the NHS £200m. The medical director of NHS England, Steve Powis, insisted to the Times that ‘there is more to be done’ and this is just ‘the first stage’ of discontinuing unmerited and needless treatments.
Personally, I can definitely see reason for these cuts as the £200m saved could contribute towards offering more essential procedures. For example, I am a strong advocate for the introduction of brain scans for patients with migraines. I think that evaluating the effectiveness of each individual treatment provided is of paramount importance so it is ensured that taxpayers’ money is not wasted, but is spent only on evidence-based and necessary treatments.
Despite this, I can sympathise with those who will be affected by these cuts who will either have to turn to alternative or privatised treatments, or they will be forced to live (and potentially suffer with) the ailments for which they pursued a remedy. For example, women who have heavy menstruation will not be provided with hysterectomy (unless circumstances are extreme and fulfill certain restricted conditions). Hysterectomy is a surgical procedure where the cervix and womb are removed, hence stopping menstruation. This would restore confidence in women with heavy menstruation as they no longer have to worry about leakage, pain or feeling uncomfortable. An added bonus of this procedure is the eliminated risk of cervical cancer and hence the abolished necessity of cervical smears. However, this is a major surgery requiring general anaesthetic, so is associated with risks such as postoperative infection. Moreover, the procedure can cause premature menopause, cannot be reversed and may be less suitable than other treatments, for example, hormone therapy. Therefore, there is a strong argument to regard hysterectomy for heavy menstruation as an unnecessary risk with little benefit.
To conclude, I would propose that the cuts made were justified and that further cuts should be made in the future. Nevertheless, I maintain that each case should be considered deeply with an emphasis on ensuring patient care is of the highest possible standard.
By Sophie Maddock