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Harrogate CCG targets overweight patients and smokers to make financial savings

06 Oct 2016

NHS Harrogate and Rural District Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) have today announced that as part of measures to address a £8.4m black hole in its finances, patients with a BMI of 30 and over, as well as smokers, will be denied non-urgent operations for six months until they have completed a weight management programme or a stop smoking service. In July, NHS England rated the CCG as one of the few ‘outstanding’ CCGs in the country. 

In September NHS England intervened to stop neighbouring NHS Vale of York CCG from imposing a similar policy after the Royal College of Surgeons raised concerns that proposals went against clinical guidance and made smokers and overweight patients soft targets for financial savings. St Helens CCG was also recently forced to abandon plans to save money by stopping all non-urgent referrals for four months. 

Commenting on NHS Harrogate and Rural District CCG’s plans to delay surgery for up to six months for smokers and patients with a BMI of 30 and over, Mr Ian Eardley, Vice President of the Royal College of Surgeons, said: 

“The policies for smokers and overweight patients that Harrogate and Rural District CCG intend to impose ignore the public outcry that surrounded similar plans announced by neighbouring Vale of York CCG in September. They fly in the face of the intervention made by NHS England to prevent those plans from going ahead. 

“The Royal College of Surgeons is very supportive of encouraging patients to join programmes that help them lose weight or stop smoking before surgery. However making it a condition of receiving that surgery, no matter how sick they are or how much pain they are in, is wrong. NHS England has already said that denying operations to a particular group – such as smokers – is “inconsistent” with the NHS constitution. (2) 

“NHS Trusts and CCGs are desperately looking for ways to save money in very challenging times but singling out groups of patients is not the way to do it. We hope NHS England will now step in to prevent Harrogate and any other CGGs from targeting patients in this way.”  

Notes to editors

1. NHS Harrogate and Rural District Clinical Commission Group paper explaining new policies:


3. The Royal College of Surgeons of England is a professional membership organisation and registered charity, which exists to advance surgical standards and improve patient care.

4. For more information, please contact the Press Office:

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