Smokers and obese people across the Harrogate District will be delayed from having operations in a move by the local health commissioner to save £8.4m.
Routine surgery funded by NHS Harrogate and Rural District Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) will be delayed by six months for patients who smoke or those with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or more.
During that time they will be offered help to improve their health in a move NHS executives say will “encourage patients to take a greater responsibility for their lifestyle choices”.
The controversial restrictions are the latest to be considered, after a similar proposal by the Vale of York was put on hold last month. Similar measures were discussed by Scarborough and Ryedale CCG last week, but a final decision has yet to be taken.
The governing body of NHS Harrogate and Rural District CCG yesterday agreed patients who smoke or those with a BMI of 30 will be offered six-month period of “health optimisation” before being referred for a non-urgent operation.
During that time they will be offered a referral to a weight management programme or stop smoking services.
The rule would not apply to some patients, including those needing surgery for cancer or suspected cancer, those having diagnostic procedures, children, frail elderly people, those with severe mental illness or a learning disability.
The CCG’s chief officer Amanda Bloor said: “I feel the measures we are taking encourage patients to take a greater responsibility for their lifestyle choices.
“The CCG is not saying patients can’t have the surgery. By introducing a six-month health optimisation period, we are encouraging and supporting patients to undertake a lifestyle change which will provide them with the best possible clinical outcome.
“With spending on obesity related ill-health and smoking related illness increasing year on year, these measures will help protect the future finances of the CCG and the wider local health economy.”
The CCG has a plan in place to save £8.4m but rising demand and increasing costs have seen the organisation’s budget stretched.
Other measures agreed were to reduce unnecessary hospital visits by reviewing follow-up appointments and working with GPs and pharmacies to cut spending on prescribed medicines.