Plan to Place Conditions on Routine Surgeries in Devon Dropped

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Published: 12 Dec 2014      

A recent proposal to place conditions on routine surgery for smokers and the morbidly obese in Devon have been shelved. The plans, which would have made surgery conditional on smokers quitting or the obese losing weight, would have supposedly helped The Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (NEW Devon CCG) cut a £14.5 million deficit.

However they came under fire from a number of groups, including the Royal College of Surgeons who said that losing weight was simply not possible for some people. The feedback led to the CCG deciding against the proposals.

As part of the scheme, any patient with a BMI over 35 would have needed to shed 5% of their body weight before surgery, whereas smokers will have needed to quit for 8 weeks prior. The BMI rating scale especially caused some contention, as there are some issues revolving around the accuracy of the scale in individual cases and some people who are naturally large can sometimes wind up having a higher BMI despite the fact that they are perfectly healthy.

Ben Bradshaw MP criticised the plans as essentially being "wholesale rationing" of health services that the patients in question would have contributed towards through their tax payments.

He added: "What we're talking about at the moment in Devon, and I think people need to understand this, is a wholesale rationing of healthcare in a way we've never seen in the NHS."

Dr Sarah Wollaston, who is the Conservative MP for Totnes and the chair of the Health Select Committee, echoed the sentiments somewhat, adding: "These kinds of measures - if they are evidence-based and good for patients - then there is an argument for saying that we do them everywhere but that wasn't the reason this was being introduced."

While Dr Wollaston claimed that such a move could be welcomed if it was based on proper evidence, the fact remains that doing so would restrict services for patients regardless of what they are paying into the tax system to fund the NHS, which is against what the NHS as a whole is intended for in the UK.

Following the opposition a spokesperson for the CCG announced: "We announced a series of measures to improve health outcomes in October. This produced a helpful public debate which we have followed with interest.

"We have come to the conclusion that there is already a strong public acceptance of the need for people to continue to take responsibility for their own health and wellbeing.

"We have therefore decided to further promote smoking cessation and weight loss services to improve outcomes for patients."

The group is still considering a range of cost cutting measures, including switching branded drugs for generic equivalents and restricting hearing aids, however those measures currently remain under consideration.

Source - BBC

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