The NHS has been accused of trying to save money by denying smokers and obese patients treatments like cataract surgery, joint replacements and IVF, unless they change their lifestyle.
Smokers are being denied treatment like hip and knee replacements and IVF
Freedom of Information requests obtained by GP magazine Pulse from 91 NHS trusts in England show that 25 have imposed restrictions on surgery since April 2011.
A total of 11 NHS trusts barred smokers and the obese from hip and knee replacements, whilst nine denied them IVF.
NHS Hertfordshire imposed a controversial ban last year on knee and hip operations for anyone with a body mass index (BMI) over 30 as well as smokers. This ban has now been extended to cover ALL routine surgery.
In NHS Bedfordshire, anyone with a body mass index above 35 is also banned from having hip or knee surgery, unless they reduce their BMI to below 35 or lose 10 per cent of their body weight.
Patients deemed unsuitable for surgery are being sent on weight management courses or to ‘stop smoking’ clinics.
Doctors and managers insist that these restrictions are medically justified. Smokers and obese patients are more likely to develop breathing difficulties or heart problems whilst under general anaesthetic, and hip and knee operations tend to be less successful in the obese.
However, critics are concerned that these trusts are imposing the restrictions in order to save money. With efficiency savings of £20bn expected to be made over the next 3 years by the NHS, many health trusts have resorted to restricting certain treatments and services- dubbed the ‘NHS postcode lottery’.
Dr Clare Gerada, chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said: ‘It’s becoming the deserving and the undeserving. I think it’s discriminatory and I find it astonishing. The Government should determine what should be applied universally.’
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