Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) is under fire for a proposal that would prohibit non-essential surgeries on people who are overweight or who smoke.
Patients must quit smoking for eight weeks or lose weight to qualify for non-emergency surgery at hospitals, The Telegraph reported.
The policy is designed to force patients “to take more responsibility for their own health and wellbeing, wherever possible, freeing up limited NHS resources for priority treatment,” read a statement from a pair of health care organizations, East and North Hertfordshire CCG (clinical commissioning groups) and Herts Valleys.
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But others blasted the proposal.
“This goes against clinical guidance and leaves patients waiting long periods of time in pain and discomfort,” Ian Eardley, the senior vice president of the Royal College of Surgeons, said. “It can even lead to worse outcomes following surgery in some cases.”
Patients who claim to have stopped smoking must prove it by using a breathalyzer.
“Singling out patients in this way goes against the principles of the NHS,” Eardley said.
The mission of the NHS is to provide free healthcare to all British citizens.
“There is simply no justification for these policies, and we urge all clinical commissioning groups to urgently reverse these discriminatory measures.”
Eardley charged that many local CCGs in the United Kingdom are adopting such practices to reduce costs.
The CCGs said the policy was for patient health.
“This policy is designed to improve patient safety and outcomes, both during and immediately after non-urgent surgery,” the CCGs said in a statement. “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.”
No Weight Loss, No Surgery
Under the plan, patients who are found to have a body mass index of 30 would be told to lose 10 percent of their weight. Those with a body mass index of 40 would have to lose 15 percent of their weight. They also would have to wait nine months for surgery, The Telegraph reported.
“In exceptional circumstances, clinicians will allow surgery to go ahead even if the smoking and weight loss criteria are not met,” A CCG statement noted. “Exceptions would be made when waiting for surgery would be more harmful for the patient.”
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