New NHS structure may be a threat to Complimentary and Alternative medicines
By Laura Donnelly, Health Correspondent, Guardian Health Correspondant30 Mar 2013
From Monday, GPs leading more than 200 Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) in England will become responsible for most of the health service budget and decide which treatments should be funded and which rationed.
The survey of more than 1,000 clinical staff who will be represented by the groups has found that 55 per cent want to see an immediate ban on funding homoeopathy and herbal medicine.
The finding could embarrass Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, who is known to be a supporter of homoeopathy, which is currently funded by about one in five Primary Care Trusts, the organisations to be replaced by CCGs.
The research by Campden Health found that GPs and nurses were deeply suspicious about several alternative therapies which currently receive millions of pounds in NHS funding.
More than a quarter of those polled called for acupuncture to be removed.
Current guidance from the NHS rationing body, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, says patients with unexplained lower back pain can have up to 10 sessions of the Chinese medicine, costing around £400.
The same recommendations support the use of state-funded osteopathy and chiropractic treatment, which 19 per cent of those polled were against.
The survey suggests that the GPs taking charge of the £80 billion budget are likely to restrict a number of procedures.
In total, a quarter of those polled wanted to see a ban on stomach-stapling surgery for the obese and as many believed the NHS should not fund surgical procedures for patients who smoke, who carry higher health risks in surgery.
The survey highlights the difficult decisions facing the 212 organisations put in charge of the NHS, many of whom have shown reluctance to take on the role.
One in five of those polled said they would want an end to state funding of all IVF fertility treatment. There was also enthusiasm for charging NHS patients who did not take care of their health.
In total, 83 per cent of those polled said those who failed to attend appointments should pay a fee, while 63 per cent said patients who end up in casualty departments as a result of alcohol should be forced to pay charges.
Julia Manning, the chief executive of 2020 Health, a, centre-Right think tank, said the poll showed that clinical staff were ready to make tough decisions.
“Doctors should have the freedom to fine people who abuse the health service; it’s nonsense that no one ever is made to bear the consequences of exploiting the privilege we have of ‘free at the point of use’ health care.”
Dr Steve Field, the deputy medical director of the NHS Commissioning Board, said he thought some of the suggested charges and restrictions on surgery for the overweight and smokers were “pretty abhorrent”.
“Alcohol is a social issue and I don’t think we should be looking at charging people for care, or potentially driving patients away from seeking help.
“We know bariatric surgery [stomach stapling] can reduce several co-morbidities, and we know smoking is very closely linked with deprivation – I think we need to understand the underlying causes of these problems, not find ways to punish patients,” he said.