Kent health trust cuts GP referrals to save £19m
Doctors in east Kent have been told to save money by not referring patients to hospital for non-urgent operations.
The Eastern and Coastal Kent Primary Care Trust, which has outlined the measures, is predicting an overspend of £19m by the end of the financial year.
It has asked GPs not to refer patients for a total of 64 procedures, including some knee and hip replacements, tonsil operations and cataract surgery.
Chief executive Ann Sutton said GPs were being asked for their views.
The trust said in the first six months of this year more patients had been treated than planned, with more money spent than expected.
Other low-priority procedures which doctors are asked to consider include bariatric surgery for obese people, tattoo removals and varicose veins treatment.
The new measures affect the area's three main hospitals - the Kent and Canterbury, the William Harvey, in Ashford, and the Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, in Margate.
The waiting time for treatment in hospital has also been raised by three weeks, to 16.
The trust, which said it was required by the government to achieve a surplus of £12m by the end of next March, said the new restrictions would be in place until at least mid-February.
Ms Sutton described it as "a very challenging time" for the trust, but said the list of low priority treatments was widely accepted and widely understood.
She added that the impact on patients should not be "too significant".