Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) is considering a policy proposal that would ban smokers and obese individuals from certain surgeries.
The controversial policy, which was drawn up by two clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in Hertfordshire, would ban certain patients from the surgeries they need unless they quit smoking or lose weight.
Similar moves have already taken place, with patients put on waiting lists for up to nine months and asked to lose weight or stop smoking while they wait. These policies have been observed in more than one-third of England.
Obese patients “will not get non-urgent surgery until they reduce their weight” reads the policy. The new criteria would also ban smokers from operations unless they can stop smoking for at least 8 weeks.
Individuals with a BMI of 40+ will have to reduce it to under that number or lose 15% of their body weight in a 9-month period. Overweight patients with a BMI between 30 and 40 will have to reduce it to less than 30 or drop 10% of their body weight. Those who fail to lose weight or stop smoking could be banned from surgery indefinitely.
The proposal has drawn serious criticism at home and abroad, notably from the Royal College of Surgeons, whose vice president, Ian Eardley, has called for an “urgent rethink” of the “discriminatory” policy.
“This goes against clinical guidance and leaves patients waiting long periods of time in pain and discomfort. It can even lead to worse outcomes following surgery in some cases,” explains Eardley, warning that this proposal could be the “tip of the iceberg.”
It could actually end up costing the NHS more money, adds Eardley, as patients will be forced to wait longer for treatment.
The West Hertfordshire Hospitals Trust has also condemned the policy. “There is a wealth of evidence that does not support the theory that worst outcomes occur in patients with a BMI greater than 30,” argues Michael van der Watt, the trust’s medical director.
The CCGs insist the plan will encourage people “to take more responsibility for their own health and well being, wherever possible, freeing up limited NHS resources for priority treatment.”
“This policy is designed to improve patient safety and outcomes, both during and immediately after non-urgent surgery. No financial savings are expected as a result of these measures. We do however hope to improve the long-term health of our residents through the targeted stop-smoking and weight-loss support on offer to patients.”
The CCGs noted there is an NHS-funded weight loss program in Hertfordshire that GPs can refer patients to at no cost to the patient.
“If at any time the harm of waiting for surgery outweighs the benefit of losing weight or stopping smoking, the patient will go ahead and have the required surgery. In our experience, most patients go on to achieve the recommended weight loss.”
Roughly 15% of the UK’s population smokes and about 22% of adults are obese. These are serious problems that strain the NHS, but banning these people from surgery is not the type of motivation they need.
“Singling out patients in this way goes against the principles of the NHS,” says Eardley. “While it is right that patients are supported to lose weight or stop smoking, this should not be a condition of them receiving surgery.”
Author’s Note: What we’re seeing here is that when forced to save money, the authorities are deciding who is worth saving and who is not. This sort of thing can only happen in a socialized healthcare system.
Editors’ Note: Let’s connect the dots. Socialism is progressively inefficient (more and more). Prices go up. The government is paying all prices. Prices go WAY up. Government needs to cut costs. Government prioritizes patients. Government decides who is least worthy. –> Death Panels.