Behind the headlines: is the NHS really going to stop treating varicose veins?

Last month the NHS announced it was drastically limiting a number of routine procedures they deemed ‘futile’ in an attempt to save taxpayers’ money. Varicose vein surgery is one of the 17 procedures that made the list alongside surgery for snoring, grommets for glue ear Carpal Tunnel Syndrome release and haemorrhoid surgery, but what does this mean for varicose vein sufferers?

NHS bosses hope to save £200m a year by reducing these ‘unnecessary’ procedures and Steve Powis, the medical director of NHS England, believes that this is just the start: “I’m confident there is more to be done. “We are also going to ask, ‘Are there other procedures and treatments we should add to the list?’ We have to spend taxpayers’ money wisely.”

There was much coverage in the media on this announcement from the NHS and many varicose vein sufferers may have been concerned that they were going to be left to cope with the embarrassment, discomfort or worse of varicose veins.

However, Vascular Surgeon Mr Ken Woodburn of Cornwall Vein Clinic reviewed the consultation document presented by NHS England and the actual position of the NHS is that, instead of surgery, patients should first undergo alternative, very effective keyhole local anaesthetic endovenous procedures if they are experiencing the symptoms of varicose veins.

Unfortunately for varicose vein patients in Cornwall the suggested local criteria for treatment is more restrictive than in the NHS document and patients with varicose veins symptoms in Cornwall currently do not receive treatment on the NHS unless they have complications from their veins. This is unlikely to change in the near future, making self-pay the only option for many patients with varicose vein symptoms.

It is true that varicose veins that are purely cosmetic without any of the associated symptoms will not receive treatment on the NHS but that has long been the case. For those patients that do not meet the local NHS criteria, the full range of varicose vein treatments is available at the Cornwall Vein Clinic. Call us on 01872 308 520 to discuss your options.