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Tuesday 18th June 2019

Not enough tonsil ops performed in UK

5th August 2011

Experts have issued a warning over cutbacks to the number of tonsil operations.


ENT UK fears that trusts reducing the number of operations to save money could put the lives of patients at risk.

The organisation says that hospitals are seeing a worrying rise in complications such as tonsil cancer as fewer operations are performed.

Figures show that in the mid-90s, over 77,000 tonsillectomies - where the tonsils are removed - were performed annually but by 2008 this had fallen by 37% to below 50,000.

While there is a view that the procedure had been overused in the UK, which has lower tonsillectomy rates than anywhere else in Europe, ENT UK is now concerned that the backlash against such operations has gone too far  and there is now a risk of too few operations being carried out.

Dr Andrew McCombe, consultant surgeon and spokesman for ENT UK, said: “There is no data to suggest that the procedure is overused or abused in the UK.

“In fact the data trends of increasing hospital activity for tonsillar problems seem to suggest that rather than performing too many tonsillectomies in the UK, we are now performing too few.”

Conditions that could be treated or prevented by removing the tonsils are now becoming more common. Cases of cancer of the tonsil are rising with 900 people in the UK diagnosed with it in 2008 compared to 500 in 1999.

The Department of Health said there was no excuse to cut back on services ‎that patients need.


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