UK Systematically Denies Surgery to Seniors

UK Systematically Denies Surgery to Seniors

Royal College of Surgeons issued a report that the British National Health Services (NHS) is denying life-saving operations because of age discrimination in defiance of the law. New data documents for the first time that across large areas of the United Kingdom no patients above the age of 75 are “receiving surgery for breast cancer or routine operations such as gall bladder removal and knee replacements.” 

Under the British socialized medicine system, a national board called NICE has made financial decisions regarding healthcare access that assigns less value to treating seniors.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) provides national guidance and advice to supposedly improve health and social care in the UK. Because of budget considerations, NICE issued a report on May 6, 2005 that “patients could be denied certain health treatments because of their age.”

The report caused an uproar at the time. Jonathan Ellis, health policy manager at the “Age Concern” charity, said: “To suggest that anyone should receive less care and attention simply because they happen to be older is blatant discrimination.” He added that about 80% of physicians in general practice now believed there is discrimination against older people within the NHS system. “It also runs contrary to the government’s stated aim of tackling the prejudice against older people that exists in health care services,” he stated.

Tim Kelsey, director for patients and information at NHS England, the central body in charge of the provision of healthcare services, reported on July 6, 2013 that, “We are about to run out of cash in a very serious fashion.” NHS England projected that NHS would be facing a $56 billion annual funding gap by 2020. Senior NHS doctors and managers said the system was considering closing 20 hospitals across the country.

The 144 separate local councils in England that administer the NHS collectively spent $23.5 billion last year for “adult social care” on the 11 million people 65 years or older in the UK. That population is expected to grow by about 250,000 per year thru 2050.

The London Telegraph on July 2nd quoted a confidential survey of budget chiefs for the 144 councils which showed that total spending on adult social care dropped by $458 million or 2% over the last year ending in June. The survey reveals that budgets have shrunk by 12% since the 2011 financial crisis, but the number of people needing care has risen by 13% because of an ageing UK population and an increase in the number of disabled.

The Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) study release on July 3rd “analyzed rates of surgery in England for six of the most common operations among different age groups. It exposes a major postcode lottery in practice across the country – with a 37-fold variation in rates of surgery for breast cancer for women aged 65 and over, depending on where they live. Hip replacements were 10 times as common in some parts of the country as others, with a 6-fold variation in rates of surgery for bowel cancer in 2011-12, the figures show.”

The RCS report found dramatic differences in council area surgery rates for those aged 65 and above. Twenty-nine council areas provided “zero surgery” for those aged 75 and over in the six categories analyzed. For beast surgery to remove cancerous tumors, there was an average of 37 per council area, and in some regional parts of the nation the numbers were “so low that they were calculated as a rate of zero” in other parts. 

RCS President Professor Norman Williams said the scale of the differences was “extremely worrying,” raising suspicions that some parts of the NHS were operating covert blanket bans against procedures on age grounds. The controversy in the UK over this type of suspected “discrimination” caused the government to pass anti-age discrimination laws regarding denial of beneficial medical procedures based on age.

In response to media pressure, the British Health Secretary said: “We expect the NHS to make sure that all patients can access the treatment they need – discrimination of any kind is unacceptable.”

Acceptable or not, the British National Health Service is rapidly becoming financially insolvent. The cost of NHS now takes an average of 35% of councils’ overall budgets, up from 30% just four years ago, and the proportion is predicted to continue growing.

President Obama promised seniors that they would not suffer as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) moves to nationalize healthcare when it is fully implemented in 2015. But the UK’s experience demonstrates that nationalized care will still go bankrupt even if access to necessary surgical procedures is systematically denied to seniors.

The author welcomes feedback and will respond to reader comments.

From July 15th to July 29th, Chriss Street will be teaching “Entrepreneurship and Capitalist Business Strategy” at Ho Chi Mihn University in Vietnam.

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