Please click here to view the full Tonsillectomy Commissioning Statement.
Please click here to access the referral form.
Exclusions to policy
NHS Scarborough & Ryedale and Vale of York CCGs routinely commission treatment for Red Flag conditions (see clinical management). Please note this guidance only relates to patients with recurrent tonsillitis. It does not apply to other conditions where tonsillectomy should continue to be normally funded, these include :
- Obstructive Sleep Apnoea / Sleep disordered breathing in Children
- Suspected Cancer (e.g. asymmetry of tonsils)
- Recurrent Quinsy (abscess next to tonsil)
- Emergency Presentations (e.g. treatment of parapharyngeal abscess)
- Severe immune deficiency that would make episodes of recurrent tonsillitis dangerous
- Acute and chronic renal disease resulting from acute bacterial tonsillitis
- As part of the treatment of severe guttate psoriasis
- Metabolic disorders where periods of reduced oral intake could be dangerous to health
- PFAPA (Periodic fever, Apthous stomatitis, Pharyntitis, Cervical adenitis)
Referral criteria for possible tonsillectomy
The CCGs do not routinely commission tonsillectomy. Tonsillectomy will only be commissioned in accordance with the criteria specified below for recurrent acute sore throat in adults and children in the following circumstances:
Sore throats are due to acute tonsillitis where
- The episodes are disabling and prevent normal functioning i.e. there has been significant severe impact on quality of life and normal functioning, as indicated by documented objective evidence (e.g. absence from school, failure to thrive)
AND THERE HAS BEEN
- Seven or more, well documented, clinically significant*, adequately treated sore throats in the preceding year OR
- Five or more well documented, clinically significant*, adequately treated sore throats in each of the preceding two years OR
- Three or more well documented, clinically significant*, adequately treated sore throats in each of the preceding three years.
- There has been a discussion with patient/parents or carers in relation to the benefits and risks of tonsillectomy vs watchful waiting, as emphasised by the Royal College of Surgeons guidance3 . Information should be provided (see patient leaflet section below) and reassurance given if no further treatment or referral for tonsillectomy is deemed necessary at this stage. This discussion should be documented.
*preferably demonstrated by FeverPAIN or Centor scores (see below)
The impact of recurrent tonsillitis on a patient’s quality of life must be taken into consideration. A fixed number of episodes, as described above, may not be appropriate for adults with severe symptoms and an application can be made to IFR for earlier surgery.
Tonsillectomy for the treatment of halitosis associated with tonsillar debris is NOT routinely commissioned. The CCGs will also consider funding via IFR in children (aged <16) with sleep disordered breathing if ANY ONE of the following applies:
- A positive sleep study
- Significant impact on quality of life (daytime behaviour/sleepiness)
Within secondary care, there should be:
- Confirmation of primary care assessment, fulfilment of the criteria for tonsillectomy and impact on quality of life and ability to work/attend school
- Management options – tonsillectomy, or referral back to primary care for ongoing monitoring.
Patients who are not eligible for treatment under this policy can be considered on an individual basis, where their GP or consultant believes exceptional circumstances exist that warrant deviation from this policy.
Individual cases will be considered by the Individual Funding Request panel.
Red flag conditions – consider need for admission or urgent referral
- Peritonsillar abscess (quinsy)
- Persistent sore throat for > 6 weeks
- Current or a history of excessive drooling (inability to swallow saliva) with acute inflammation/infection.
- Retropharyngeal abscess which can cause visible neck swelling and trismus (inability to open the mouth)
- Unilateral facial swelling
- Immunosuppressant medication such as carbimazole
- Is immunosuppressed – HIV, steroid use, post-transplant, leukaemia, asplenia, aplastic anaemia
- Persistent unilateral tonsillar enlargement – consider malignancy
- Signs of Meningitis - Neck stiffness, Photophobia, Non-blanching rash
- Lemierre syndrome — thrombophlebitis of the jugular vein
- Severe oral mucositis
- Adult obstructive sleep apnoea with tonsillar enlargement (if trials of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) and the use of mandibular advancement devices are unavailable or unsuccessful).
- Severe neck infection
- Witnessed episodes in children of apnoea exceeding 10 seconds OR choking episodes during sleep
- Patients with sore throat who have stridor, progressive dysphagia, bleeding, increasing pain or severe systemic symptoms (may require hospital admission)
- Tonsil bleeding
Acute Management of Sore Throats
NICE CKS states:
- Studies have shown that use of antibiotics for streptococcal sore throat decrease symptom duration by less than 1 day.
- The threshold for prescribing antibiotics should be lower in people at risk of rheumatic fever (such as people with a previous history of rheumatic fever and those living in South Africa, Australian indigenous communities, Maori communities of New Zealand, the Philippines, and many developing countries), and vulnerable groups of people who are being managed in primary care, (such as infants, very old people, and those who are immunosuppressed or immunocompromised).
- Antibiotics should not be withheld if the person has very severe symptoms and there is concern about their clinical condition.
- For people not in a vulnerable group, and without severe symptoms, or who have a FeverPAIN score of 2 or 3 consider a delayed antibiotic prescribing strategy.
- Acute Group A streptococcal (GAS) pharyngitis/tonsillitis is common in children and adolescents aged 5 to 15 years and is more common in the winter (or early spring) in temperate climates. Streptococcal infection is suggested by fever > 38.5°C, exudate on the pharynx/tonsils, anterior neck lymphadenopathy, and absence of cough. A scarlatiniform rash may be present, especially in children.”
The FeverPAIN clinical score can help prescribers to determine if a sore throat is more likely to be caused by bacteria. Higher scores suggest more severe symptoms and likely bacterial (streptococcal) cause. Each of the FeverPAIN criteria (below) score 1 point (maximum score of 5).
- Attend rapidly (3 days or less)
- Severely Inflamed tonsils
- No cough or coryza A score of 0 or 1 is associated with a 13% to 18% likelihood of isolating streptococcus.
A score of 2 or 3 is associated with a 34% to 40% likelihood of isolating streptococcus. A score of 4 or 5 is associated with a 62% to 65% likelihood of isolating streptococcus
- Tonsillar exudate
- Tender anterior cervical lymphadenopathy or lymphadenitis
- History of fever (over 38°C)
- Absence of cough
Each of the Centor criteria score 1 point (maximum score of 4). A score of 0, 1 or 2 is thought to be associated with a 3 to 17% likelihood of isolating streptococcus. A score of 3 or 4 is thought to be associated with a 32 to 56% likelihood of isolating streptococcus.
Patient Information Leaflets