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U.K. Health Service May Be Rationing Care, Lawmakers Say

Britain’s state-run National Health Service may be restricting access to some types of non-urgent treatment to save money, lawmakers said, expressing concern about the way spending cuts are being implemented.

Most savings already achieved by the NHS as part of efforts to narrow the government’s budget deficit have come from freezing wages, the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee said in a report published in London today. It sees a risk that local health-care agencies may resort to “simple cost-cutting” rather than seeking to become more efficient.

“We are concerned that other savings are being achieved by rationing patients’ access to certain treatments,” the panel’s chairwoman, opposition Labour Party lawmaker Margaret Hodge, said in an e-mailed statement. “These include cataract surgery and hip and knee replacements. These procedures are described as being ‘of low clinical value,’ but people waiting for these operations suffer pain and a poorer quality of life.”

The lawmakers said they aren’t satisfied that the Department of Health is doing enough to transform the way the NHS works. Data showing the service made efficiency savings of 5.8 billion pounds ($8.8 billion) in 2011-2012 aren’t “fully reliable,” with only 60 percent of the savings substantiated using national figures.

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