Obese Patients In The UK Could Be Denied Surgical Coverage

Amna Shoaib
A recent proposal by NHS discriminated against obese people and smokers. But it is now being reviewed.


Top brass at the U.K.'s National Health Service is now reviewing a controversial decision that could have landed the organization in hot water.

The move came as a result of a proposed restriction by NHS Vale of York Clinical Commissioning Group, which suggested that non-life threatening procedures, such as hip and knee surgery, should be delayed for everyone with a BMI exceeding 30. The rule would have applied to smokers as well.

Under the proposal, obese individuals were likely to get a referral in less than a year if they could reduce their weight by 10%. Similarly, smokers who refused to quit would have had to wait six months for their procedure to begin. However, if they did not smoke for eight weeks, the process could be accelerated.

NHS was under "severe pressure" when this move was suggested. The clause was then promoted with hopes that it will motivate patients to try to lose weight and work on their health.

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However, this was seen as a largely classist law. Many obese patients live in impoverished neighborhoods, and have incomes in the lower rung. Unhealthy food is a cheaper, much more widely available option than the healthier alternative.

Shaw Somers, a bariatric surgeon from Portsmouth, believed that although fairly logical, the step was discriminatory.

"Obesity is an illness and for these people, they are not deliberately waking up each morning thinking 'how do I stay fat?'," he told the Today program.

Chris Hopson, the head of NHS Providers representing acute care, said instead of "piecemeal decisions," NHS should focus on the larger future of healthcare.