Breast cancer patients are being denied “life-changing” reconstructive surgery across swathes of the country, amid deepening NHS rationing, research shows.

Freedom of Information disclosures reveal that almost one in four NHS authorities have introduced restrictive policies, which mean women can be denied the operations to restore their bodies.

Experts said the rationing measures mean some women who  have just been treated for cancer are being told they can only have the surgery within a limited time frame.