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GPs reach decision about funding procedures and treatments
30 June 2017

GPs across Barking and Dagenham, Havering and Redbridge yesterday agreed to stop prescribing over the counter painkillers, muscle rubs, vitamin supplements, gluten-free foods and certain surgical procedures as they look to make savings for the local NHS.

But the GPs tasked with making the recommendations - agreed unanimously by their governing body colleagues this week – rejected proposals to stop funding sterilisation and procedures such as breast reductions and removing moles and cysts from people’s faces. It was also agreed that one in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) embryo transfer will be funded by the NHS, down from the three embryo transfers currently funded. 

The decisions come after a public consultation that looked at saving the NHS around £5 million by stopping more than 30 treatments currently available for local patients on the NHS. Over 650 responses were received. 

“We’ve had to make some tough decisions, but that’s the job we signed up for,” says Dr Anita Bhatia, clinical lead and a GP in Redbridge. “The savings will help us to protect the most vital services for local people and their families and I hope the public will understand that we simply can’t afford to keep spending their NHS money on some of these things.

“We spoke to hundreds of local people during the consultation,” says fellow GP and clinical lead Dr Sarah Heyes. “We have been heartened that they largely agree with what we are doing – trying to save the local NHS money at a very difficult time. We simply couldn’t carry on without doing something. We didn’t recommend everything that we consulted on – we listened to people’s concerns around things like stopping IVF altogether and we decided to reject them.”

The consultation, which ran for eight weeks, proposed:

  • stopping funding ‘cosmetic’ procedures (such as breast augmentation and removing cysts and moles)
  • no longer prescribing some ‘over the counter’ medicines and products (including multi vitamins, gluten-free food, muscle rubs etc.)
  • reducing the number of IVF embryo transfers funded
  • introducing criteria for weight-loss surgery
  • stopping funding male and female sterilisation. 

The governing bodies agreed that the majority of procedures and treatments in the consultation should no longer be funded by the local NHS. A full breakdown of the proposals and changes is available here

These changes will take effect from Monday 10 July 2017, meaning that only new referrals from that date onwards will be affected.