British Healthcare System Considers Plan to Ban Surgery for Smokers and Obese Indefinitely

“Those who can afford services will buy them and those who cannot will go without."

Britain's National Health Service (NHS) is considering a proposal that would indefinitely ban surgery for smokers and obese patients. The Royal College of Surgeons is calling for an "urgent rethink" of the "discriminatory" plans, saying they go against the fundamental principles of the NHS. While there are those saying that this is just a proposal and discussion of it is just a scare tactic against socialized medicine, several areas are already introducing these delays for months, asking patients to lose weight or quit smoking in the interim. 

The change would mean that obese patients "will not get non-urgent surgery" at all "unless they reduce their weight" barring exceptional circumstances, and smokers need to quit for eight weeks before they are referred for any surgery, even being breathalyzed as proof. Why? Supposedly, they want people “to take more responsibility for their own health and wellbeing, wherever possible, freeing up limited NHS resources for priority treatment." Sure, people should be more responsible, but this is really about rationing. Of course, they're saying it's all about the patients:  

"This policy is designed to improve patient safety and outcomes, both during and immediately after non-urgent surgery.  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.” 

Ian Eardley, senior vice president of the Royal College of Surgeons, said, "There is simply no justification for these policies, and we urge all clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) to urgently reverse these discriminatory measures." 

West Hertfordshire Hospitals Trust medical director Michael van der Watt is against it as well, and said, “There is a wealth of evidence that does not support the theory that worst outcomes occur in patients with a BMI greater than 30." Yet, the areas proposing this change, East and North Hertfordshire CCG and Herts Valleys, are both in financial straits. This would save them a combined £68 million this year. 

“This is absolutely disgraceful," Joyce Robins, from Patient Concern, said. "We all pay our taxes, and the NHS should be there when we need it; we did not agree to a two-tier system.”

No, but this is always how it was going to end, and this is how it would end here, as well. There is no other plausible outcome. Government healthcare will lead to rationing and, as the St. Albans District Green Party said, that will lead to greater disparities in health services between the haves and the have-nots: “Those who can afford services will buy them and those who cannot will go without."

Coming soon to an America near you!



Photo credit: Tobyotter via / CC BY