Socialist Worker

'Health rationing' as a cover for cuts

Issue No. 2500

Smokers are easy targets for NHS rationing

Smokers are easy targets for NHS rationing (Pic: Florian Christoph at flickr.com)


NHS bosses are denying thousands of people who are overweight or smokers vital operations in a bid to save cash.

That is the shocking conclusion to a report by the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) released today, Friday.

Over a third of Clinical Care Commissioning Groups in England veto surgery, such as hip and knee operations, for patients until they stop smoking or lose weight.

In most cases there is no medical reason to do so, and the restrictions are against clinical guidelines.

The ban leaves many patients in pain and discomfort and is further proof of “health rationing” that is spreading through the NHS.

Some two thirds of adults in Britain are overweight or obese, while ten million are smokers.

Clare Marx, President of the RCS, said, “Blanket bans that deny or delay patients’ access to surgery are wrong.

“Our worry is that smokers and overweight patients are becoming soft targets for NHS savings.”

Tim Wilton, president of the British Orthopaedic Association, said, “There is no clinical, or value for money, justification for refusing to fund hip or knee replacements based on body mass index (BMI) or smoker status.

“Good outcomes can be achieved for patients regardless of whether they smoke or are obese, even at BMIs of over 50, and these surgeries are highly cost effective.”

The Tories want scapegoats to blame for the NHS crisis they created.

Everyone who wants to defend the health service should be angry about the way they want to ration the service. If health bosses get away with this attack, they will doubtless be back for more.

Such attacks on patients underline the importance of the junior doctors’ strikes next week, and of wider solidarity.


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