Overweight Patients Denied Surgery in England


British surgeons concerns over obese patients being denied surgery

Royal College of Surgeons has discovered a third of English NHS health bosses have restricted access to surgeries.

Restricting patient access to surgery has the potential to continue life threatening and painful circumstances. The increase in rationing surgeries due to the financial climate has been causing concern, the reveal of this has bee highlighted because of the freedom of information returns from almost all of the 209 clinical commissioning groups in England as well as all 7 health boards in Wales.

Some clinics encourage voluntary policies such as, loosing weight or stopping smoking. However, some have introduced mandatory ones, meaning potential patients have to meet exact regulation before they can be operated on. The mandatory criteria has become an issue with the college as they believe that overweight patients may, or already have, become a focal point for NHS savings.

Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons
Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons

The report has shown that 31% of CCGs (Clinical Commissioning Groups) and a single health board in Wales have, at the very least, one policy requiring people to meet a criteria like lose weight or stop smoking before they can be continue on for routine surgery. For example, some surgeries may require you to be under a certain BMI to qualify for surgical procedures and some require a patient to loose 10% of their body weight.

It has been explained by the Chair of the East and North Hertfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, Dr Hari Pathmanathan, that some patients may be required to loose weight or stop smoking as it heightens the risk of them dying while under anaesthetic. It also means they are more likely to suffer from breathing problems, infections and surgical complications. Dr Pathmanathan has said:

“It is for these health reasons that patients who have a higher risk because of their weight are not be booked for routine surgery until they have lost enough weight to improve the outcomes of their surgery, although no-one would be asked to wait for more than nine months.”

The Royal College of Surgeons believes that bans or restrictions on surgery on basis like these aren’t upheld by national guidance and are wrong to enforce. College President Clare Marx has spoken out and stated the fact that patients should be dealt with on a case to case basis:

“In some instances, a patient might need surgery in order to help them to do exercise and lose weight.”

While it may be medical fact that smokers and obese patients are more likely to suffer adverse affects from surgical procedures, do you think there should be a blanket ban on them receiving surgery?

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