Report by Victoria Munro, Local Democracy Reporter, and James Cracknell
Waltham Forest residents may no longer be offered three NHS procedures deemed “a poor use of money” if a merger of local services takes place next year.
Across north-east London, seven clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) are due to merge in April 2021. These are the organisations that decide how NHS funds for primary care should be spent locally, and it means all residents in Waltham Forest, Redbridge, Havering, Hackney, Newham, Barking and Dagenham and the City of London will have access to the same range of treatments.
Plans published by the CCGs propose that certain treatments currently offered in some boroughs but not others should no longer be offered at all on the NHS after the merger, on grounds that they are “not a good use of limited NHS resources”. They plan to change the rules for other procedures so that “only people who are likely to benefit” will receive them.
The new larger NHS body, likely to be called North East London CCG, will no longer offer three procedures that are currently available in Waltham Forest; laser surgery for short-sightedness, injections for non-specific lower back pain, and surgery for snorers. Six other procedures will be limited – these are surgeries for breast reduction, to stop ears sticking out, and to aid breathing through the nose; Dupuytren’s contracture release for when fingers will not uncurl; trigger finger treatment for those who struggle to bend finger or thumb; and grommets to help children with ‘glue ear’ hear properly.
In exceptional cases, a doctor will be able fill out an individual funding request in an attempt to have the NHS pay for a service it normally does not fund. And in a document setting out how the CCGs will merge, they claim the move will not affect the amount of money spent on primary care locally and that existing hospitals, NHS trusts, GP surgeries and community services will not be impacted. The CCGs have indicated, however, that the merger will likely result in some redundancies – but that these will be “minimal”.
Dr Ken Aswani, chair of Waltham Forest CCG, is backing the merger and said that he was hoping the move will improve quality of care “within our existing acute and community services”.
The merger is still subject to approval by NHS England and residents are now being invited to have their say and contribute to the plans.