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NHS Rationing of Varicose Vein Treatment

Last month I treated a lady whose varicose veins had deteriorated over the years to the point where her leg ulcerated. Why couldn’t she get NHS treatment?

Is NHS Rationing Fair?
Is NHS Rationing Fair?

Most of us understand that the NHS is short of money and that not all treatments can be offered. No one for example would suggest that the NHS should remove tattoos or offer liposuction unless there are exceptional circumstances. So why is it that most people can’t get NHS treatment for their veins? Well it is true that most people with even quite severe varicose veins do not go on to develop a serious complication such as leg ulceration. So it is right that in these times of austerity that some form of rationing is applied. However, there is evidence that General Practitioners are not referring people equitably in different parts of the country and that even people with complications are not being referred for treatment.
For example, a study from the Leeds Vascular Institute and Medical School looked at Primary Care Trust Commissioning of varicose vein intervention in 108 PCTs between 2008 and 2011. They found that 97% restricted access that means rationing. The study also found that the qualifying criteria varied around the country. That means it wasn’t fair rationing. They suggested that a national decision should be made about which varicose vein patients should be offered funding for treatment on the National Health Service. Well there is already clear national guidance to assist GPs from both the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) as well as the Venous Forum of the Royal Society of Medicine. Despite this, a study last year from Professor Alun Davies and his team in London confirms that only 62%s of GP would refer patients with changes such as varicose eczema even though these skin signs indicate that a leg ulcer might develop soon. That’s just over half of people with this warning sign.

I think the current system of rationing is haphazard and that everyone with varicose eczema or leg ulcers should be referred to a specialist on the NHS and the current situation of irrational rationing be stopped.


Contact me today for a confidential chat

If you’re worried about your veins and would like a confidential chat please do get in touch. I am happy to offer simple advice by telephone or email for free and without obligation.

The VeinCare Centre also offers a screening assessment with our vascular technologist. For £25 you can have a scan with Wendy Parsons. She is not a doctor and so she could not give you medical advice but she can check your deep veins and your varicose veins and give you an idea of how bad they are and whether laser might be suitable for you. If you would like to have an appointment with Wendy please call 01935 873 951