"Draconian" PCT denies treatment to more than 1,000 patients

Bravo to the York Press for launching a Let Your Doctor Decide campaign in protest against a PCT vetting panel which decides if patients are to be given further treatment as part of a cost-cutting exercise.

imageLast year the panel denied treatment to more than 1,000 cases – nearly 40% of the referrals – including some for serious illnesses such as cancer.

There are lots of angry people, including GPs, who want the welfare of patients to be the first concern. It is not felt that this is being achieved by the North Yorkshire and York Primary Care Trust’s vetting panel which assesses each referral on an individual basis.

Surely a doctor is the best person to judge whether his patient requires further medical treatment, his word should be good enough. Nobody wants to go into hospital unless it is essential.

An angered Julian Sturdy, Conservative parliamentary candidate image for York Outer, has swiftly brought these concerns to the attention of Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley.

He has also written to the trusts’ Chief Executive, Dr Janet Soo-Chung, asking for a meeting to discuss the situation. The PCT is in dire financial straits, in debt by £12.4 million.

Julian wrote:

“I am deeply concerned to learn about the large number of patients who have been refused treatment during 2007 by North Yorkshire and York Primary Care Trust’s vetting panel. At the time your PCT set this up, there was great opposition from local GPs who felt this would restrict the service they could provide and caused great distress to patients.

“Given the impact this policy is having in North Yorkshire, and the large number of concerned residents who have contacted me on this matter in the York Outer area, I would very much welcome an opportunity to discuss this in greater detail with you. I feel it is important that we have clarity over this issue given the great concern over healthcare in North Yorkshire, and the fear from a number of quarters that we are ending up with a postcode lottery health care service in our region.

“I look forward to you response and very much hope that we can meet in the very near future to discuss my concerns further.?

Of the 2,797 cases referred to the PCT’s individual case panel last year, nearly 40 per cent were turned down. Doctors now only refer their patients to the panel if they feel they will meet the PCT’s strict criteria, meaning 1,083 rejected patients is just the tip of the iceberg. One doctor is quoted as saying that although every PCT has an individual case panel, theirs is more “draconian” than other areas and it is contributing to a postcode lottery for healthcare.

Julian added: “I am very disturbed to learn that more than 1,000 people have been denied treatment as a result of the introduction of this vetting panel, especially as some of the illnesses referred are extremely serious and include cancer. I can see no justification for a panel to intervene once patients have been recommended for treatment by their GPs, who are surely experts on the medical requirements needed. They would not refer them unless it was essential.

“This is particularly inexcusable as the Humber’s Strategic Health Authority is expected to end the year with a staggering £280 million surplus. Why should patients in North Yorkshire suffer from a postcard lottery? They deserve – and should have – the treatment that their GP recommends.

“I very much hope that my meeting with Dr Soo-Chung will provide some straight answers to the questions that we are all asking about this inexplicable situation.?


  1. Who do these people think they are, that they can “play god”?

  2. Our system here in USA (if you can call it that) is abominable. I feel we could also accelerate a cure for many diseases with stem cell research. But of course the pharmaceutical billionaires would have a fit!

  3. Hi Ellee. I don’t really blame the PCT for this. The system is useless. In the North it is not so bad because the PCTs have much more money to play with, but in Cambridgeshire it is dire. However the PCTs would say that they have to prioritise the way they spend their money, and it is inherently very difficult to compare say cancer care with mental health or orthopaedic surgery in pure value for money terms. For instance a cancer drug might cost 10,000 which would treat 5 hip replacements or fund a part time community psychiatric nurse. Which is better, and how can the PCT be expected to decide? Far better in my view to have an appropriately sized contingency fund which is administered by the hospitals with a right of appeal to the PCT or a similar body if declined for more expensive treatments that have not yet received NICE approval. But this requires a bit of flexibility financially and some common sense and restraint from the medical profession, none of which is always very apparent! So spare a thought for the poor PCTs-they may not always do a good job, but we are asking them to do an extremely difficult one without any real help or guidance from the department of health and in the cas eof our local PCTs without the financial structures and stability to sustain any sensible mechanism

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