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Letter to The Sunday Times warning that NHS treatment is being denied to obese patients and smokers

23 Oct 2016

Miss Clare Marx, President of the Royal College of Surgeons, has written to The Sunday Times along with several other royal college presidents warning that NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) are openly targeting obese patients and smokers delaying or denying treatment in an attempt to save money. The full letter is as follows:

Dear Sir,

Cash-strapped NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) are now openly targeting obese patients and smokers delaying or denying treatment in an attempt to save money. These policies are discriminatory and ignore NICE clinical guidance.

With 26% of adults in England classed as obese and 18% currently smoking, these policies are discriminatory and will impact a significant proportion of the population. We agree patients should be helped to stop smoking or lose weight before surgery for their overall health but it is wrong to make this a condition of treatment.

In denying routine operations to particular groups - in this case obese patients and smokers - CCGs are acting against the NHS Constitution’s pledge for patients to be treated according to clinical need, NHS England has said as much. We will find ourselves on a slippery slope unless NHS England asks these CCGs to change their policies and prevents others from imposing similar plans. Otherwise, who will be targeted next?

Miss Clare Marx
Royal College of Surgeons

Ms Shirley Cramer
Royal Society for Public Health

Dr Taj Hassan
Royal College of Emergency Medicine

Professor Jane Dacre
Royal College of Physicians

Dr Liam Brennan
Royal College of Anaesthetists

Notes to editors

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.

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