CONTROVERSIAL restrictions banning obese patients and smokers from surgery in Yorkshire have been backed by NHS chiefs – opening the way for the unprecedented measures to be put in place across the country.
Obese people will be denied planned surgery for 12 months unless they lose weight and smokers prevented from undergoing operations for six months unless they quit following the decision by Vale of York Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).
The move is significant as NHS England bosses had ordered the measures to be put on hold following a public outcry three months ago but have now sanctioned their go ahead from January.
Their backing means health chiefs in other parts of the country will be free to impose similar restrictions as part of cuts to plug a multi-billion-pound financial black hole facing the NHS.
Last night the measures were condemned by the Royal College of Surgeons which warned more groups of patients could also face rationing.
Its president Clare Marx said the ban was the “wrong approach and frankly shocking”.
She said decisions about whether to treat a patient should be based on their need and “not arbitrary criteria about weight and smoking status”.
She added: “We are also concerned that the CCG says that they have worked on this policy with NHS England meaning rationing of NHS treatment is now being given the thumbs up at a national level.
“This decision comes just a few days after there was no extra funding announced for health and social care in the Autumn Statement.
“The NHS funding crisis is not an abstract issue; it is affecting patients’ fundamental right to treatment. If smokers and obese patients are hit this time, where will the rationing decisions fall next?”
Vale of York CCG has been put into “special measures” legal direction by NHS England over a mounting financial crisis predicted to leave it with a £24 million deficit in 2016-17.
It was ordered by NHS England to review the same proposals three months ago to ensure they were “proportionate and clinically reasonable” but it has now been agreed they can be implemented.
Under the measures, patients with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or above will have to shed 10 per cent of their weight before surgery or wait 12 months for operations.
Smokers will have to quit for at least two months or face a six-month wait for surgery.
Patients requiring emergency surgery, with cancer and some other conditions, as well as children, will be exempt from the restrictions.
Three other CCGs in North Yorkshire, which also face problems amid a growing NHS financial crisis in the county, have imposed restrictions on obese people and smokers accessing surgery in recent months although they are not as tough.
GP Shaun O’Connell, a clinical lead at Vale of York CCG, said: “The local system is under severe pressure. Supporting our population to take a proactive approach to maintaining an optimal weight through healthy eating and stopping smoking will improve their quality of life and help to ensure that we get the very best value from the NHS.
“Exceeding resources is not sustainable in the NHS and risks the ability of services being there when people really need them.
“The NHS spends around £9bn a year on patient care for those living with diabetes and with spending on obesity related ill-health and smoking related illness increasing year on year, these measures will help protect the future finances of the local health economy.”