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‘Too fat for NHS surgery’, PCTs neglect care home residents, and could HRT protect against cancer?

A round-up of the health news in the papers on Wednesday 7 March

Pulse's investigation into the NHS rationing of resources by refusing ‘vital resources' to overweight patients or those who smoke was widely covered in the nationals this morning and even made the Daily Mail's front-page splash with the headline ‘too fat for NHS surgery'.

The Mail cites data from 91 health trusts across England, obtained by Pulse through freedom of information requests, which shows that 25 have imposed restrictions since last April on treatments such as hip and knee replacements, cataract surgery and IVF ‘unless they agree to make radical changes to their lifestyle'.

One of the most striking examples was NHS Hertfordshire which has banned certain patients from any operation requiring a general anaesthetic other than lifesaving surgery on their hearts, brains or to remove cancer. Instead they are being sent on weight management courses or to ‘stop smoking' clinics and told to come back only when they lead healthier lives.

RCGP chair Dr Clare Gerada labelled the policies ‘discriminatory' and ‘astonishing'.

In other news, the healthcare needs of older care home residents are being neglected in some areas of the country, the Guardian reports.

According to a review published by the British Geriatrics Society and the CQC, most PCTs plan healthcare for their population by assessing the needs of people who live in their own homes, so those in care homes ‘may be out of sight and out of mind'. According to the president of BGS Professor Finbarr Martin, the NHS disengaged from care homes when they became private sector nursing homes, ‘except for the statutory responsibility to provide GPs'.

And finally, back to the Mail for news that women taking a specific form of HRT may be protected against breast cancer.

Researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle found that oestrogen-only hormone replacement therapy cuts rates of the disease by nearly a quarter. The news comes ten years after a previous US study linked HRT to breast cancer, heart disease and other serious conditions. In the ensuing three years the number of women taking HRT in the UK halved to around a million.