Life Saver

Saving Healthcare for the Healthy in the UK

Budgets are tight. England’s National Health Service (NHS) faces a funding gap that threatens patient safety and the quality of care. What to do? Two clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in Hertfordshire have a plan. They’ll restrict care for smokers and people with obesity. Smokers will have to quit before they can have non-urgent surgery. People with obesity will have to lose weight first.

Go Heal Yourself!

The BBC explains the guidance:

Patients with a body mass index (BMI) of over 40 must lose 15% of their weight and those with a BMI of over 30 must lose 10%, or reduce it to under a 40 BMI or a 30 BMI – whichever is the greater amount.

And here’s the kicker. Those people with a BMI over 40 don’t necessarily get access to the bariatric surgery that might be the only reliable way for them to lose 15% of their body weight. Nope.

After the latest round of NHS cuts, patients with severe obesity must prove why they “deserve” bariatric surgery. Panels of NHS officials will approve individual patients on a case-by-case basis.

Immediate, Furious Criticism

This textbook case of discrimination based on health status met with immediate, furious criticism. Senior Vice President Ian Eardley of the Royal College of Surgeons said:

This goes against clinical guidance and leaves patients waiting long periods of time in pain and discomfort. It can even lead to worse outcomes following surgery in some cases.

It violates fundamental principles of the NHS.

Nicholas Small is a doctor who chairs one of the CCGs that came up with this plan to save healthcare for the healthy. He defended his proposal, saying they had “wide public backing” for these changes.

Hmmm. What other groups could we exclude from care based on popular opinion? Is this a road that civilized people wish to travel?

Click here to read more from the BBC, here for more from the Telegraph, and here for more from the Times.

Life Saver, photograph © Matt Gibson / flickr

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October 21, 2017

3 Responses to “Saving Healthcare for the Healthy in the UK”

  1. October 21, 2017 at 7:13 am, Al Lewis said:

    Why do people always equate smoking with obesity? The former is totally voluntary. You don’t gain weight because you use a fake ID to purchase a Big Mac and then sneak behind the barn to eat it. If you want to impress the cool kids, you don’t do it by showing how grown-up you look eating a Twinkie.

    Food doesn’t carry warning labels. Quitting food is a bad idea.

    I’m not seeing the parallels. Budget or no budget, there is no justification for the NHS to lump smoking and obesity in the same category.

    • October 21, 2017 at 7:37 am, Ted said:

      Your absolutely right, Al. I agree with you completely.

  2. October 21, 2017 at 12:24 pm, Allen Browne said:

    What other disease disqualifies you from NHS benefits? A huge lack of knowledge here and across the pond.