My Bill to end postcode rationing of NHS care
I introduced a Bill in the House of Commons today to end postcode rationing of treatment for NHS patients.
My National Health Service (Right to Treatment) Bill was proposed under the “10 minute rule” and seeks to do three things:
• Ensure that any medical treatment prescribed by a doctor will be provided by the NHS unless the Secretary of State for Health, or his medical and scientific advisers at the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, say no.
• Establish a national register of all cases where treatment is refused, to act as a check on creeping privatisation of NHS services.
• Give patients a right of appeal if treatment is denied.
I believe that the NHS should provide equal access to treatment, when prescribed as necessary by a doctor or other qualified clinician, to NHS patients wherever they live. I have seen a significant increase in the number of constituents complaining about treatment being denied by their Primary Care Trust. I expect the postcode lottery will get worse when GP-led clinical commissioning groups take over from Primary Care Trusts under the government’s Health and Social Care Bill – because the greater fragmentation of commissioning will create more scope for local variation in provision, and because the squeeze in NHS funding is increasing the pressure for rationing treatment.
Cases of postcode rationing brought to my attention include:
• A constituent with cystic fibrosis who needs antibiotics to prevent lung infections but cannot take the two most common antibiotics. Her consultant prescribed a new drug, Aztreonam Lysine, but the York and North Yorkshire NHS Primary Care Trust will not pay for it.
• Haxby Health Centre in York recently told patients that eight common procedures would no longer be provided on the NHS. Patients were referred to a private clinic charging £146 for dealing with ingrowing toenails, for example, or £243 for removing benign lesions (such as moles).
• Obese people can generally have a gastric band fitted – to reduce the size of their stomach – if their body mass index is over 40, but in York treatment is limited to extreme cases where the patient’s body mass is over 50.
• IVF (test tube baby) treatment for infertile couples is available in Hull and Leeds, but not in North Yorkshire and York.
• Facet joint injections have generally been stopped for people with chronic back pain in York.
I raised these cases with the PCT and, in some cases, with the Department of Health. In the cystic fibrosis case the Minister, Earl Howe, said, “It would not be appropriate for me as a Minister to intervene.” But the NHS is a national service – so Ministers should be accountable to Parliament for decisions taken by NHS managers, and to change them when they do not agree with them.
When people buy private health insurance they look carefully to see what treatments are covered. NHS patients pay national insurance, and they need a similar guarantee, so they know what is covered and what is not. We all pay national insurance and taxes on the same terms, no matter where we live, and we all have a right to expect NHS treatment on the same terms.
You can watch my speech here. My Bill is on the order paper to have its second reading on Friday 30 March 2012.