NHS leaders look to restart work at tackling the local postcode lottery for a number of procedures

Engagement aimed at reviewing eligibility for a number of procedures for patients in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent is underway again.

The Difficult Decisions engagement originally started in January 2020, but needed to be paused in April because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Difficult Decisions looks at five key areas where access varies across the area, depending on where you are registered with a GP:

  • Assisted conception
  • Hearing aids for non-complex hearing loss
  • Male and female sterilisation
  • Breast augmentation and reconstruction
  • Removal of excess skin following significant weight loss.

Dr Lorna Clarson, a GP and Clinical Director for Partnerships and Engagement, said: “We want the treatments that we commission for our patients to be those that clinical research shows are most effective. We also want to end the postcode lottery that currently exists and offer the same services to patients regardless of where they live within Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent.

“We made progress in 2020 and got some very useful feedback. After pausing so we could focus on responding to COVID, it’s important that we ask people again about their views and whether their experience during the pandemic has altered the way they feel.”

The engagement takes the form of an online survey that is open to everyone. There will also be direct approaches made to a number of stakeholders including support groups.

Dr Clarson said: “We want to hear from patients, relatives, staff and support groups. We want to know about views and experiences of our services and the five procedures. We also want to know about accessibility and patient experiences since the pandemic and whether they have changed.

“No decisions have been made but the engagement feedback will be independently analysed and a report produced that will help to shape our proposals.”

The online survey runs until midnight on Sunday October 10.