Obese denied surgery30th April 2007
Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) across the country are denying patients some NHS treatments because they are seriously overweight or because they smoke.
PCTs with a specific policy of denying joint surgery to obese patients include North Staffordshire, Stoke, Lincolnshire, North Lincolnshire, Milton Keynes, Hereford, West Hertfordshire, East and North Hertfordshire and Suffolk while some also refuse to perform a variety of operations on smokers. Surrey, South Staffordshire, Dorset, and Central and East Cheshire Trusts all say they expect doctors to consider weight and tobacco use before referring patients for surgery. When questioned the trusts say the risks of surgery are greatly increased for smokers and those who are overweight and Health Secretary, Patricia Hewitt, has supported them saying it is â€œperfectly legitimateâ€? for individual trusts to set their own treatment requirements.
However, Opposition MPs and patient groups have reacted angrily saying patients are being denied treatment as a cost cutting exercise and not on clinical grounds. Obesity representatives have also pointed out that joint problems can cause obesity in some and that the only way out for these people is a replacement joint so that they can start exercising. Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said, "Treatments should be based on clinical needs. Trusts that have this policy are the same trusts who are trying to meet their deficits, so deny treatment to save money.â€? Ms Hewitt responded by saying that treatment guidelines were a matter for doctors to decide and should not be interfered with by managers or the government.
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