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Thursday 18th July 2019

'Ineffective' surgery costing NHS millions

14th April 2011

A new report has suggested the NHS is wasting up to £500 million a year on ineffective operations such as removing tonsils and wisdom teeth.


The Audit Commission findings said “weeding out” low value and cosmetic procedures would result in more money for treatments with better outcomes for patients.

It has warned primary care trusts to adopt a more consistent approach to such treatments.

A separate report, from the King’s Fund think tank, found widespread variations in rates of surgery across the country with some patients not getting the surgery they need while others may be undergoing operations they do not benefit from.

Hip and knee replacements vary by as much as 400% between trusts and cataract surgery by 300% while there are also variations in rates of coronary artery bypass grafts.

And 10 times as many operations to remove tonsils are carried out in Coventry than Kingston upon Thames despite doubts about its usefulness.

John Appleby, chief economist at the King’s Fund said: “This report confirms research which has shown persistent and unwarranted variations in the use of and access to even the most common procedures. This is unfair to patients and inefficient for the NHS.”

He said the NHS should address the problem urgently at a time that it was facing the biggest financial challenge in its history.

Andy McKeon, managing director of health at the Audit Commission, said: “PCTs are currently paying for treatments that cost the taxpayer money and according to clinical experts have little or no real value to patients. This needs to change.”


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