NHS Scotland halts use of liquid nitrogen in practices

As reported by The Scotsman, the NHS in Scotland has garnered criticism by halting the use of liquid nitrogen for the treatment of warts and verrucas in GP practices

GPs in Scotland will no longer be provided with liquid nitrogen for the treatment of verrucas and warts – a move that has drawn criticism.

The cost-cutting move means that GP practices aren’t obliged to provide minor surgery for these conditions any more. This is, apparently, connected to the transporting and storing liquid nitrogen, which has increased in cost since a change in health and safety regulations.

However, doctors are not impressed with this change, and are concerned both for patients and for over-burdened hospitals.

Retired West Lothian GP Dr Donald Macaulay said: “This is purely a cost cutting move. When I was complaining about this they came out with all these health and safety reasons, but it was all rubbish. I could not find evidence of a single incident where anybody had come to any harm.

“I mean, Heston Blumenthal uses liquid nitrogen to make ice cream on the TV. You think ‘This is nonsense’. It is just madness.”

“People’s lives are not at risk but things like warts or verrucas are unpleasant and if you can help remove them as a GP and save the patient a long journey, that’s a service.

“The dermatologists still have access to liquid nitrogen so it’s not as if they’ve said there is no use for cryotherapy and nobody needs that treatment any more.

“What this decision means is that it will take forever for a patient to receive cryotherapy treatment whereas before GPs could do it straight away. The burden is now placed on dermatology departments that already had long waiting times.”

NHS Lothian actually stopped supplying liquid nitrogen to its practise seven years ago, but the health service has now spread that to all 14 of Scotland’s trusts.

While NHS Scotland will no longer supply equipment for cryotherapy services, some GPs are paying for private contractors to continue cryotherapy services. Scottish Labour’s health spokesperson, Monica Lennon MSP, said: “If this is a cost-cutting exercise it is a further sign of the challenges facing our NHS under the SNP and it needs to be fixed.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson added: “The latest evidence indicates that a separate service for minor surgery for warts and verruca is no longer clinically recommended.”

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