West Sussex NHS trust is the latest NHS trust to suspend funding of fertility treatment as managers try to cut spending by £50 million. Now patients across the county face months of delays for treatment. In addition, all obesity surgery and vasectomies, and other non-urgent operations such as repairing varicose veins and plastic surgery, will be put on hold until the next economic year - starting next April - unless there are exceptional circumstances.
NHS West Sussex is also telling GPs to stop referring patients for other routine treatments, meaning patients could experience a delay of nine weeks or more in receiving treatment.
These measures are being introduced because the trust has to make a further £10 million of savings, in order to break even by the end of March. The trust claims it is already half way there by reducing management costs and the amount of unscheduled care.
John Wilderspin, Chief Executive of NHS West Sussex, said: 'None of us relish having to take such decisions, but we have thought very carefully about what needs to be done and spoken to GPs and other clinicians about our plans, which will help to ensure that NHS in West Sussex can provide high quality, sustainable services in the future'.
However, the trust promised that all emergency and urgent care will continue to be delivered as now, within the government approved waiting times.
Dr Andrew Foulkes, acting Medical Director for NHS West Sussex, said: 'Our ageing population means that more people rely on the NHS when they are affected by cancer, stroke, dementia, diabetes, and many other serious conditions'.
'It is also important to remember that there is no blanket ban for any treatment - if someone has a compelling medical need, they will be treated'.
Christine Field, Chairwoman of the scrutiny committee watchdog which recently inspected the trust's finances said: 'The key issue for us to understand is any impact on services and patients, and of particular concern is that to cut costs, people will have to wait for longer to be seen'.