LONDON — National Health Service(NHS) managers in Yorkshire are to ban overweight patients and smokers from life-changing surgery for up to a year, in a move condemned by the Royal College of Surgeons.
NHS commissioning groups across the country are facing a financial headache as the cost of running Britain’s free health service continues to rocket.
But the announcement Friday by the Vale of York Clinical Commissioning Group(CCG), a doctor-led body that runs the NHS in the Yorkshire city, has sent shockwaves across the NHS.
The CCG is introducing a range of money-saving policies which will significantly delay treatment and operations for surgery such as hip replacements for patients who are obese or who smoke.
The fear is other local NHS bodies will introduce similar measures to help balance the books.
Clare Marx, president of the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS), described the policies as some of the most severe the modern NHS has ever seen.
Marx said: “Smokers and overweight patients should unquestionably be helped to stop smoking or lose weight prior to surgery for their overall health.
“We would support any attempts by Vale of York to expand its weight loss and smoking cessation programs, but introducing blanket bans that delay patients’ access to what can be life-changing surgery for up to a year is wrong.”
Patients in the York area with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or above will be barred from most surgery for up to a year, with smokers facing a six-month ban. The restrictions will apply to procedures including standard hip and knee operations.
Other bodies within the NHS said Saturday they expect to see more rationing decisions across the health service.
Chris Hopson, the head of NHS Providers,”It’s the only way providers are going to be able to balance their books, and in a way you have to applaud their honesty. You can see why they’re doing this, the(NHS) service is bursting at the seams.”
The measure in York will not apply to cancer patients or life threatening conditions, but they may be offered treatment earlier if they shed weight or stop smoking.
A spokesperson for the Vale of York Clinical Commissioning Group said: “The local system is under severe pressure. This work will help to ensure that we get the very best value from the NHS and not exceed our resources or risk the ability of the NHS being there when people really need it.
“The CCG wants to support work that helps the community to stop smoking and where needed, lose weight.”