Home E-Weekly October 24, 2017

UK Smokers and Overweight Patients Banned from Surgery

Published: October 23, 2017

HEALTH CHECKPOINT Local commissioning groups which control regional spending for the UK's National Health Service are restricting non-urgent surgery from smokers and obese patients.

A county in southern England demands that obese patients lose weight and smokers kick the habit before they can become eligible for non-urgent surgery.

Residents of the county Hertfordshire will be breathalyzed for carbon-monoxide levels before they're approved for surgery, having to meet a requirement of 8 weeks without cigarettes. Meanwhile, obese patients with a BMI over 40 will be required to lose 15% of their body weight over 9 months or reduce their BMI to under 40, whichever proves the larger loss. Patients with BMI over 30 must also dip below their threshold over 9 months or lose 10% of weight.

Hertfordshire is attempting to save £68 million ($90 million). They say the measures, however, are meant to improve public health by pushing residents to "take more responsibility for their own health and wellbeing, wherever possible, freeing up limited (National Health Service) resources for priority treatment." Urgent care, however, is to be safeguarded against these new practices, meaning that if waiting for surgery to meet these requirements proves detrimental to a patient's health, the requirements do not apply.

These measures in Hertfordshire are part of similar cuts across the UK, all of which have come under fire from the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS). Speaking on behalf of the RCS's findings, the college's president Clare Marx condemned regional "blanket bans that deny" surgery to patients as "wrong." The trouble for critics like the RCS, however, is proving that these measures targeting smokers and overweight patients are categorically meant to reduce costs, which would breach guidelines from the government's health advisers.

Joe Madsen

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