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Provision of NICE-recommended varicose vein treatment in the NHS

Hitchman, Louise; Mohamed, Abduraheem; Smith, George Edward; Pymer, Sean; Chetter, Ian C.; Forsyth, James; Carradice, Daniel


Louise Hitchman

Abduraheem Mohamed

George Edward Smith

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Mr Sean Pymer
Academic Clinical Exercise Physiologist

James Forsyth


BACKGROUND: Standardization of access to treatment and compliance with clinical guidelines are important to ensure the delivery of high-quality care to people with varicose veins. In the National Health Service (NHS) in England, commissioning of care for people with varicose veins is performed by Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) and clinical guidelines have been developed by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE CG168). The Evidence-Based Intervention (EBI) programme was introduced in the NHS with the aim of improving care quality and supporting implementation of NICE CG168. The aim of this study was to assess access to varicose vein treatments in the NHS and the impact of EBI. METHODS: CCG policies for the delivery of varicose vein treatments in the NHS in England were obtained from 2017 (before EBI introduction) and 2019 (after EBI introduction) and categorized by two independent reviewers into levels of compliance with NICE CG168. Hospital Episode Statistics data were compared with the NICE commissioning model predictions. A quality-adjusted life-year was valued at £20 000 (Euro 23 000 15 November 2022). RESULTS: Despite the introduction of the EBI programme, CCG compliance with NICE CG168 fell from 34.0 per cent (64 of 191) to 29.0 per cent (55 of 191). Some 33.0 per cent of CCG policies (63 of 191) became less compliant and only 7.3 per cent (14 of 191) changed to become fully compliant. Overall, 66.5 per cent of CCGs (127 of 191) provided less than the recommended intervention rate before EBI and this increased to 73.3 per cent (140 of191) after EBI. The overall proportion of patients estimated to require treatment annually who received treatment fell from 44.0 to 37.0 per cent. The associated estimated loss in net health benefit was between £164 and 174 million (Euro 188 million and 199 million 15 November 2022) over 3 years. A compliant policy was associated with a higher intervention rate; however, commissioning policy was associated with only 16.8 per cent of the variation in intervention rate (R2 = 0.168, P < 0.001). CONCLUSION: Many local varicose vein commissioning policies in the NHS are not compliant with NICE CG168. More than half of patients who should be offered varicose vein treatment are not receiving it, and there is widespread geographical variation. The EBI programme has not been associated with any improvement in commissioning or access to varicose vein treatment.


Hitchman, L., Mohamed, A., Smith, G. E., Pymer, S., Chetter, I. C., Forsyth, J., & Carradice, D. (2023). Provision of NICE-recommended varicose vein treatment in the NHS. British journal of surgery, 110(2), 225-232.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 22, 2022
Online Publication Date Nov 30, 2022
Publication Date Jan 10, 2023
Deposit Date Nov 17, 2022
Publicly Available Date Dec 1, 2023
Journal The British journal of surgery
Print ISSN 0007-1323
Electronic ISSN 1365-2168
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 110
Issue 2
Article Number znac392
Pages 225-232
Public URL


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