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RCS comments on Vale of York decision to ration surgery for obese patients and smokers

26 Nov 2016

The Vale of York Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has announced it will ban most forms of elective surgery for smokers and obese patients for six and twelve months respectively, unless they lose 10% of their weight or have a BMI of under 30, or stop smoking for two months. The CCG had originally proposed the policies during the summer but they were withdrawn following widespread criticism. However, the commissioning group has now decided to proceed with the same policy after it says it worked with NHS England on the policy.

Miss Clare Marx, President for the Royal College of Surgeons said:

“It is absolutely right that the NHS looks at how it can support obese patients to lose weight, and smokers to stop smoking.

“However, attempting to ration services by simply banning these groups from having vital surgery for up to a year is the wrong approach and frankly shocking. Decisions about whether to treat a patient should be based on their need, and not arbitrary criteria about weight and smoking status, which explicitly contradict guidance from both NICE and the Royal College of Surgeons. According to NHS Digital around 25% of the population in England is obese although this is higher in more deprived areas.

“We are also concerned that the CCG says that they have worked on this policy with NHS England meaning rationing of NHS treatment is now being given the thumbs up at a national level.

“This decision comes just a few days after there was no extra funding announced for health and social care in the Autumn Statement. The NHS funding crisis is not an abstract issue; it is affecting patients’ fundamental right to treatment. If smokers and obese patients are hit this time, where will the rationing decisions fall next?”


Notes to editors

  1. NHS Digital’s data on England obesity levels is available here:

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

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