Obesity and Smoking Surgery Plans Meet Opposition in York

The plans to deny non-life threatening surgery to obese people and smokers have met with significant opposition in York.

Councillors have voiced their scepticism about the notion, and have voted in favour of writing to the Vale of York Clinical Commissioning Group to outline their concerns.

Naturally this will throw the future of the policy into uncertainty.

The plans to target the obese and smokers were due to be introduced in York next month, and involve those with a BMI in excess of 30 slimming down and smokers demonstrating that they have ceased the habit before being approved for certain surgical procedures.

Cross-party opposition to the plans was proposed by the council’s Labour group and backed by Conservative councillors, and the Royal College of Surgeons.

The latter claims that the move runs counter to the NHS constitution.

Ian Eardley, vice president of the Royal College of Surgeons, suggested that the plans due to be implemented in York are simply unacceptable.

“This has the potential to affect a large number of patients, as NHS Digital estimates that around a quarter of the English population has a BMI of 30 or higher. We are particularly concerned that if this policy is not quickly reversed then others may follow suit.”

Cllr Stuart Barnes, who tabled the motion, asked “what clinically, would have changed in order to make surgery ‘less risky’ after 12 months?”

And Barnes indicated that it was a rhetorical question, continuing his opposition in following comments.

“As the RCoS points out, it could even do harm to patients who require certain types of surgery, and could cost more to the NHS in the long run.”

Barnes outlined what he perceived to be the poor state of the NHS in the local region.

“Sadly our public health team in York has seen cuts of £1.2m to its budget over the last two years and while I see the Executive’s hands have been tied because this has come from cutting national Government grants, nevertheless, rather than offering the carrot to these people to try and help them lose weight or stop smoking, we are forced through this policy to try and do so by the stick.”

Meanwhile, Cllr Chris Steward argued that individual circumstances should be taken into consideration.

“What matters is the patient and not why you find yourself in that situation. We have to be understanding and tolerant with people. Equally when we look at the motion and we are talking about penalising people who are obese and people who are smokers, should we also be penalising people who are sitting in A&E after doing dangerous sports?”

The move to penalise smokers and overweight individuals in this way will be considered controversial, and is bound to meet with public opposition.


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