Smokers and obese patients to be denied surgery until they make a change under new cost cutting measures

SMOKERS and obese patients will be banned from surgery for six months to cut costs.

The NHS Harrogate and Rural District Clinical Commissioning Group has announced that smokers and patients with a BMI of 30 or more will instead be offered a referral to a stop smoking service or a weight management programme for six months before even being considered for an operation.

The move is part of an £.84 million savings plan.

But Royal College of Surgeons vice president Ian Eardley said: "The Royal College of Surgeons is very supportive of encouraging patients to join programmes that help them lose weight or stop smoking before surgery.

"However making it a condition of receiving that surgery, no matter how sick they are or how much pain they are in, is wrong. NHS England has already said that denying operations to a particular group – such as smokers – is 'inconsistent' with the NHS constitution."



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He said that "singling out" a group of patients was not the way to save money in "very challenging times".

The move comes after NHS England intervened to stop the neighbouring NHS Vale of York CCG from imposing a similar policy after the Royal College of Surgeons raised concerns.

St Helens CCG was also forced to abandon plans to save money by stopping all non-urgent referrals for found months.

Mr Eardley said: ""The policies for smokers and overweight patients that Harrogate and Rural District CCG intend to impose ignore the public outcry that surrounded similar plans announced by neighbouring Vale of York CCG in September.

"They fly in the face of the intervention made by NHS England to prevent those plans from going ahead."

Harrogate and Rural District CCG chief officer Amanda Bloor said: "The CCG has undertaken a thorough review of all the services it commissions based on clinical evidence to support the decision making process and I feel the measures we are taking encourage patients to take a greater responsibility for their lifestyle choices.

"It is vital that patients are given the skills and knowledge to take accountability for their own wellbeing to ensure we all lead healthier lifestyles. "

She said that the move was not denying patients the surgery but instead "encouraging and supporting patients" to make a lifestyle change.

She said: "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 CCG and the wider local health economy."

The policies on smoking and BMI will not apply to certain groups including those undergoing surgery for cancer, children and elderly people.

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