A new radical shake-up of health services is being planned in Mid Sussex, Horsham and Crawley in a bid to save NHS cash.
Health chiefs are currently staging a number of public consultations over what and how savings can be made.
The body responsible for paying for local health services – the Mid Sussex, Horsham and Crawley Clinical Commissioning Groups – are facing a massive shortfall in funding.
NHS England – which has placed the groups in ‘special measures’ – has ordered them to make £17 million savings and has said it recognises that it will mean ‘difficult choices’ having to be made.
Among sweeping changes being considered are telephone advice instead of face-to-face medical care and the rationing of more medical procedures.
A number of treatments are already no longer ‘routinely funded’ by the NHS locally, including cataract operations, joint surgery, varicose vein treatments, haemorrhoid removal and skin lesion treatment.
But health chiefs also say they want to make it easier for people to see a GP seven days a week – and to find ways to keep people healthier while helping them manage their own conditions when they do become ill.
They also want to decrease the numbers of people ending up in A&E.
A spokesman for the clinical commissioning groups said: “We have a duty to ensure local services are being commissioned in a sustainable and affordable way and that we do not carry on spending more money than is available.
“In the long term, we know the solution lies in a health and care system where there is a greater emphasis on prevention and care closer to home, relieving the pressures on our hospitals.
“We are currently developing plans to achieve this long term transformation of services.
“However, right now we must be open and honest about our financial situation with our patients, public and stakeholders and ensure they recognise that it will require difficult decisions to be made about some services that are not considered cost effective.”
The first public consultation on possible changes – dubbed the Big Health And Care Conversation – was held in Crawley on Thursday. Others are being held at County Hall North in Horsham on July 26, and at Clair Hall, Haywards Heath, on August 2.