Ninety percent of NHS trusts in the UK are restricting common operations, according to new data.
The 'rationing' of operations has been seen by many as a cost-cutting measure, but NHS managers have defended the practice as a necessary aspect of ensuring that care is prioritised correctly.
The data, gathered under the Freedom of Information Act by GP magazine from trusts in England, showed that the most common restriction was on the tonsillectomy procedure, with 89% of areas rationing its availability.
More than half of trusts have limited weight-loss surgery and hip and knee operations, while 66% of trusts have rationed cataract surgery.
The magazine received responses from two-thirds of the 151 NHS trusts about the procedures they considered to be non-urgent.
Clara Eaglen of the Royal National Institute of Blind People was quoted by the BBC as saying, "People should not have to live with a reduced quality of life simply because PCTs are using arbitrary criteria to determine whether they get to keep their sight."
Dr Richard Vautrey of the British Medical Association has also argued against the limits, saying, "Patients fully understand the NHS doesn't have unlimited resources... but they don't understand, or believe it's fair, when services are provided in one area but not another."