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CCG backs down on plans to withhold surgery for smokers and obese patients



A CCG in Devon has backtracked on plans to withhold surgery for smokers and the morbidly obese, following widespread criticism from GPs.

NHS Northern Eastern and Western Devon CCG said it had dropped the plans, announced in October, to prevent GPs from referring some patients for routine surgery unless they lost weight or stopped smoking, following a public consultation.

The move would have compelled patients with a BMI of 35 or over to reduce this to under 35 or lose 5% of their body weight, while smokers were to be required to give up eight weeks before any kind of routine surgery.

But, as Pulse reported last week, the move prompted widespread criticism from GP leaders.

A spokesperson for NEW Devon CCG said yesterday that it would not require patients to lose weight or stop smoking ahead of surgery.

He said: ‘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.’

NEW Devon CCG chair Dr Tim Burke had said the measures were not just for saving money, but would also help patients.

But Dr Nigel Watson, chair of Wessex LMCs, told Pulse that to exclude patients who were unable to lose weight or stop smoking was unethical, while GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey warned that the decision risked causing a ‘postcode lottery’ for surgery that patients would escape by registering in other CCGs.

The CCG spokesperson added that other cost-cutting measures, including the use of generic rather than branded drugs and consultations on the value of second hearing aids and second cataract operations, remained under consideration by the CCG.