British Healthcare System Targets Bunion Surgery As "Low Priority"

Posted on Nov 29, 2011
Bunion surgery restricted in the UKIt is true that bunion surgery is elective surgery, however it does not mean that it is unnecessary surgery. This is what the British National Health Service would have us believe. They have recently ruled that bunion surgery will not be covered until the patient is in extreme and debilitating pain.

Not every case of bunions, or hallux valgus, are the same. In our Houston podiatry practice, we see patients with severe bunion deformities that offer no pain. We also see patients with minimal deformity in severe pain. Since pain is subjective, and the NHS system will look for objective signs of bunion progression, those that are in pain and require bunion surgery may not be eligible if the deformity is not deemed severe enough.

By no means does every bunion require surgery. In fact, we counsel patients every day, discouraging them from pursuing surgery for a bunion that is not symptomatic. That said, the decision for surgery should be a clinical one, not based on arbitrary criteria set forth by the government health system. Such choices are sacrificing the patient's health and well being for a cost savings.

Bunion surgery is not a cosmetic procedure. A bunion deformity causes pain that limits the shoes that one can fit into and the exercise that one can do. Left untreated, the patient suffering with a painful bunion is more at risk for other joints to start hurting, progressive arthritis, and instability which leads to falls. Hopefully the NHS in the UK will reevaluate their decision and reverse it in the future.

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Dr. Andrew Schneider
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Dr. Andrew Schneider is a podiatrist and foot surgeon at Tanglewood Foot Specialists in Houston, TX.