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Hertfordshire NHS organisations announce public consultations on proposals for service changes

Local people are being consulted about their views on a series of proposals designed to make best use of the money available to the local NHS, while helping as many people as possible to live healthier, longer lives and avoid preventable illnesses.

These proposals are being made by NHS East and North Hertfordshire and NHS Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs).

The consultations are being launched as Hertfordshire’s CCGs face a range of challenges. The number of people who need health service support is increasing and many people are living longer, often with complex conditions. Some patients need essential care and treatment day and night, which costs an average of £940 a week but can cost as much as £9,800 a week. National and local shortages of NHS staff mean that we have to make sure that doctors’, nurses’ and other specialists’ time is used wisely. We also need to encourage people to think carefully about their own wellbeing so that they live healthier lives, avoid preventable illnesses and have the very best chance of recovering well from surgery.

These proposals are about:

  • Tightening up existing rules so that people who smoke or whose weight is classified as ‘obese’ are required to make bigger improvements to their health before non-urgent surgery – unless a longer wait for surgery would be harmful
  • Reducing or stopping the availability of NHS- funded IVF (in vitro fertilisation) and specialist fertility services
  • Limiting the routine prescription of food supplements, as well as medicines and products that can be bought without prescription for short-term conditions and minor ailments
  • Restricting the prescribing of gluten-free foods
  • Stopping the routine funding for female sterilisation procedures
  • Stopping the routine funding of vasectomies (this proposal would only affect patients registered with a GP in the Herts Valleys CCG area – eg Dacorum, Hertsmere, St Albans, Three Rivers and Watford).

Dr Nicolas Small, Chair of Herts Valleys CCG said, "We have been working with East and North Hertfordshire CCG to explore options for reducing spending in response to growing financial pressures. Wherever possible we are looking to make savings that won’t affect patients. We’re cutting administration costs within our organisations, making plans to make more efficient use of technology and buildings and working with those organisations that directly provide services to deliver best value for money. However, these measures alone won’t cover the whole shortfall and there are other steps we need to take. Doctors, who make up the majority of people on the CCG board, have been heavily involved in developing proposals. This will help to ensure that good clinical practice is paramount in our considerations. We are keen to discuss these proposals with local residents and we have arranged lots of opportunities for this to happen."

Dr Hari Pathmanathan, a Hertfordshire GP and Chair of East and North Hertfordshire CCG said: "These proposals aren’t unique to Hertfordshire – some of the changes we are putting forward for consideration have already taken place in other areas and some are being considered nationally. Not all of the proposals will save money, some are designed to encourage patients to make potentially life-saving changes to their health and others should help to free up GP appointment time as patients use the expertise of community pharmacists to advise on minor illnesses.

"We recognise that our proposed changes to IVF and specialist fertility treatments have the potential to make a significant difference to some patients’ lives. That’s why we are committed to reaching as many people as we possibly can to seek views on these proposals. We will be holding public events across Hertfordshire, attending community meetings and running an extensive social media campaign."

Details of all these events will be advertised widely on the website www.healthierfuture.org.uk/nhsletstalk

Consultation documents have been produced which give more detailed information on each of the proposals, why we are considering them, and a survey asking you what you think. The survey will be open from 6 July and will close on 14 September. To give your views, go to www.healthierfuture.org.uk/nhsletstalk

Issued by NHS East and North Hertfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group and NHS Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group