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NHS Surgery Denied to the Obese

Surgeons in theatre
6th September 2016 (Feb 2017 Update Below)

As recently as last Friday, The Daily Telegraph carried a story about hip and knee operations being denied to patients in North Yorkshire if they smoke or are obese. These are alarming headlines, especially for those people in pain who have diligently paid their national insurance contributions over the years, only to be denied treatment when they need it most.
The reality is that there simply isn’t enough public money to do all of the things we, and the NHS, would like. Costs have been increasing for many years and with an ageing population and other issues putting pressure on NHS finances, this is set to continue and those in charge of the NHS budget are having to find ways to reduce demand on the service. The measures being taken in North Yorkshire are not new, we have seen similar steps in other parts of the country and for years we’ve heard from patients whose knee or hip operations have been denied because their BMI was too high. With NHS resources stretched, it’s likely that priority will be given to treatment of life threatening illnesses such as cancer with non life-threatening procedures cut back. Denying obese patients or smokers is one of the simpler ways to do this.
At Healthier Weight, our concern is the treatment of obesity, we exist to help obese patients take back control and achieve a healthy weight. For over 10 years we have battled on behalf of patients against the discrimination they face. Unfortunately, scarce NHS resources mean that obese patients can expect to see ever more operations refused to them.
If you have a BMI over 30, what does it mean for you? You may find that routine orthopaedic operations such as knee and hip replacements are denied to you but that has been the case for some time and most Trusts will give you the opportunity to lose weight to get back onto the list. If you need to lose weight to get your BMI below 30 and are considering a private weight loss procedure, we will be pleased to help.
Another inevitable consequence of tight budgets is an increased restriction on NHS weight loss procedures. After all, gastric band, bypass and sleeve operations are subject to the same cost pressures as all other treatments and we expect to see the barriers to weight loss surgery on the NHS become even higher. Already, patients have to follow long term diet programmes before being approved and even after this period are put on a waiting list. The reality is that if you are obese and eligible for surgery on the NHS you will probably wait over a year from the time your GP refers you, whereas the same procedure could be done privately within weeks. If you’re on an NHS waiting list and want to consider a private procedure instead, we’ll be pleased to discuss your options.
It’s hard to imagine that more Trusts won’t come to the same conclusion as North Yorkshire. The NHS is a great institution that does a wonderful job but there is not a bottomless pit of money and something has to give. It’s likely that patients will need to turn to private providers for the ‘non essential’ (i.e. non life threatening) procedures that they previously would have had through the NHS.
If you have any questions about your private weight loss surgery options, please call 0800 313 4618 or make an enquiry

7th Feb 2017 UPDATE:

As we predicted last September, three more health trusts across Britain have announced new measures to reduce the number of hip and knee operations performed in their hospitals. Eligibility for these procedures is expected to drop by around 15% as changes to a pain threshold test make it more difficult for some to receive the operation through the NHS.

The Redditch and Bromsgrove, Wyre Forest and South Worcestershire CCGs (Clinical Commissioning Groups) will now solely use the pain threshold test (known as the Oxford Points System) to determine who is eligible. The test rates a patient's pain and mobility on a scale of 0 - 48 (lower being worse). These trusts aim to lower the score required to qualify.

The changes also affect those with a BMI of over 35, who are being told by many hospitals to lose weight before being considered for surgery.

If you feel you are eligible for surgery but have not met the criteria, your local CCG will have an individual appeals system in place that can review your particular case. Find your local CCG here.


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