Obese and smokers banned from surgery

Two Hertfordshire CCGs have come under fire for refusing non-urgent surgery to patients who are obese and those who smoke.

According to Hertfordshire Valley CCG and East and North Hertfordshire CCG, patients with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of over 40 will not be referred for routine surgery unless they are able to reduce it below 40 over a nine-month period.  Alternatively they will be required to lose 15 per cent of their weight.

Patients with a BMI over 30 but under 40 will also be required to reduce it to under 30 or lose 10 per cent of their weight before being considered for surgery.   

Both CCGs will also require smokers to have quit for eight weeks before they are referred for surgery. A breath test will be used to detect the levels of carbon monoxide in their blood.

‘Singling out patients in this way goes against the principles of the NHS,’ says Mr Ian Eardley, Senior Vice-President at the Royal College of Surgeons. ‘While it is right that patients are supported to lose weight or stop smoking, this should not be a condition of them receiving surgery.’

Responding to the criticism, Hertfordshire Valleys CCG says: ‘This policy is designed to improve patient safety and outcomes, both during and immediately after non-urgent surgery. It is not designed to save money.’

‘Being fit and healthy before surgery can reduce the risk of serious complications, shorten stays in hospital and help patients recover better. We also hope to improve the long-term health of our residents through the targeted stop-smoking and weight-loss support on offer to patients.’   

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