ANY hopes long-suffering patients may have had that there could be a quick fix to the crisis facing local health services are dashed today.

Now we learn that a range of key treatments - everything from back pain injections to removal of non-malignant skin lesions - are to be suspended not just for three months, but indefinitely.

To make things worse, the range of treatments for which GPs will need to seek permission before they can refer patients has grown.

In their desperation to reduce their multi-million pound debt, primary care trust bosses will no longer allow local doctors to decide when patients racked with back pain might need an epidural, or when others need to be referred for a CT scan.

Instead, GPs will need to appeal to a special "exceptions panel" before offering their patients either of these treatments.

One prominent York GP, Dr David Hartley, warned today that there was an increasingly strong possibility that, because of the cuts, a potentially fatal condition like a brain tumour could be missed.

Other patients would simply be left to suffer, he added.

We knew things were bad. But it is only now becoming clear that patients in North Yorkshire could be starved of the treatment they need for months, if not years, to come.

This is no way to run a health service. How can it be right that patients in York and North Yorkshire are denied treatment available in other areas of the country, simply because health bosses here ran up huge debts.

That is post-code health care at its very worst.