An increasing number of patients are opting to go private because health bosses are refusing to pay for operations.

GPs are facing increasingly difficult situations when referring patients, with procedures such as cataract surgery, IVF, physiotherapy, tonsillectomy and knee and hip replacements being heavily restricted or not available at all through primary care trusts (PCTs).

A survey of doctors in Sussex revealed 86% were having to tell patients every month they could not be sent for further treatment on the NHS because of changes to the guidelines.

The rate is much higher than the national average of 70%, according to the research by ComRes commissioned by private healthcare provider BMI Healthcare.

Out of those responding, 39% of GPs in Sussex said they had already seen an increase in patients asking about paying for care outside of the NHS, and 26% said they are increasingly instigating discussions about private healthcare options with their patients.

A spokeswoman for NHS Sussex said: “The NHS in Sussex has a budget of £2.6 billion each year. We know that this budget will stay roughly the same over the next few years while the cost of drugs and new technology continues to increase and the demand for services rises due to an ageing population and more people living with long term conditions.

“We therefore have to work hard to improve local health services and to make them sustainable in the long term.”

Una Palmer, an executive director at BMI Goring Hall Hospital in Worthing, said: “As this survey shows patients are being forced to consider how they will be treated and how they will pay for their healthcare.

“Coupled with the reforms and the ever increasing restrictions it is essential patients understand what options they have to access healthcare outside of the NHS.”

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