The NHS has come under fire from the Royal College of Surgeons after plans were drawn up to ban patients from surgery indefinitely unless they lose weight or quit smoking.
The restrictions, drawn up by clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in Hertfordshire, propose that obese patients ‘will not get non-urgent surgery until they reduce their weight’, unless their circumstances are ‘exceptional’.
Under the new criteria, smokers will also only be referred for operations if they have stopped smoking for eight weeks, with patients undergoing breathalyser tests to check they have done so.
The East and North Hertfordshire and Herts Valleys CCGs claim that the plan will encourage people ‘to take more responsibility for their own health and wellbeing, wherever possible, freeing up limited NHS resources for priority treatment’.
It comes as both cash-strapped NHS trusts aim to save £68 million a year.
But they have been condemned by Ian Eardley, the Senior Vice President of the Royal College of Surgeons, who hit out at the decision to ban NHS treatment for any patients.
‘Singling out patients in this way goes against the principles of the NHS’, he told The Telegraph.
‘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.
‘There is simply no justification for these policies, and we urge all clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) to urgently reverse these discriminatory measures.’
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The CCG said: ‘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.’