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Patients left in pain due to NHS rationing, says report

Too many people are suffering in pain due to NHS rationing, a report says.

Patients are being left for hours in pain due to NHS rationing, which is affecting access to community nurses and hip operations, a new report says.

The King's Fund said people at the end of their life are suffering due to nursing shortages, while other patients are denied access to operations for non-clinical reasons.

The think tank said there is "clear evidence that access to and quality of patient care has suffered".

The British Medical Association (BMA) said patients are "suffering the consequences of a deliberately underfunded NHS at breaking point".

The study follows an ITV News investigation, which revealed that more than two thirds of doctors have been left with no choice but to ration care as the NHS cash crisis intensifies.

More than two thirds of doctors admitted in an ITV News investigation that they have had to ration care. Credit: ITV News

The King's Fund looked at four areas where rationing has affected patient care - sexual health services, district nursing, planned hip operations and neonatal care.

The report found:

  • The number of district nurses, who support the care of people at home, had fallen by almost half between 2000 and 2014;
  • Patients are facing tougher scrutiny over whether they qualify for district nursing;
  • Patients who can attend a GP surgery, even if it is a struggle, are being barred from accessing district nurses;
  • Reports of staff being rushed and stressed, abrupt, task-focused and having no time to speak to patients;
  • Some regions such as York have been restricting access for hip replacements by telling obese people to lose weight;
  • Severe cuts to sexual health funding, despite increasing demand for the services.

The King's Fund found there are long delays in the time it takes district nurses to get to people.

One hospice manager told the King's Fund: "The district nurses working at night are not able to give effective response times.

"You can wait up to eight hours... for patients experiencing pain and discomfort in the last two to three days of their life, it has a massive impact."

  • 'District nurses being overworked'

District nurses are being forced to work "significantly over their contracted hours" and are working very intensely, the report said.

It also said there was a large reliance on the "goodwill" of staff.

The report said: "The level of financial pressure on the NHS is severe and shows no signs of easing."

The King's Fund found there is an over reliance on the goodwill of staff. Credit: PA

It said there has been a "significant slowdown in funding growth - between 2010/11 and 2014/15, health spending increased by an average of 1.2% a year in real terms, way below the historic annual growth rate of 3.7%.

It added: "The current rate of funding growth is not sufficient to cover growing demand."

  • 'Complex picture'

Ruth Robertson, lead author of the report, said: "Longer waiting times for hospital treatment and restrictions to operations are just one small part of the picture.

"Our research shows that services like district nursing and sexual health, where we found evidence that access and quality are deteriorating for some patients, have been hardest hit by the financial pressures facing the NHS but that this is often going unseen."

Dr Mark Porter, chairman of the BMA, said: "As this report shows, patients are unfairly suffering the consequences of a deliberately underfunded NHS at breaking point.

"Pressure on all services is rising and care is increasingly being rationed.

"Waiting lists should not be rising, and yet they are."

A Department of Health spokesman said:

Blanket restrictions on treatment are unacceptable - but the NHS is now doing 5,000 more operations every day compared to 2010, so accusations of inappropriate rationing are misplaced.

We're investing £10 billion to fund the NHS's own plan for the future, supported by an immediate cash injection of £2 billion for social care and £100 million for A&E to help to improve care in the community and ease the pressure on hospitals.

– Department of Health spokesman