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U.K. health services make a stand against obesity

By Tim Sandle     May 3, 2016 in Health
One third of hospital trusts in the U.K. are refusing to treat people who are classified as obese for routine surgical procedures. Those classed as obese are told to come back when they have lost weight.
The measures relate to the UK publicly funded National Health Service (NHS), which the majority of the population accesses, and not to private healthcare. In addition, the ban does not apply to life-saving surgery but to the types of operations intended to improve quality of life, such as having a hip replacement.
As well as those with a body mass index that designates a person as obese, the same ban extends to smokers. So far only hospitals in England or Wales have put the measures in place. No such measures have been enforced in Scotland or Northern Ireland.
The medical reason given for such a ban is because obese people often have trouble breathing, which could lead to complications. Moreover, there are various risks involved both during operations and as part of post-operative care. Examples include the risk of catching infections as well as heart, kidney and lung complications.
Not all medical staff support the ban, which fall under discretion of hospital managers. For example, the BBC reports that the Royal College of Surgeons is critical and states that the ban goes against official guidance. The professional body fears that placing a ban on an ill patient only extends their suffering. It also runs counter to some medical ethics, which dictate that a patient should be treated whatever their personal circumstances.
Clare Marx, who is the college’s president, told The Guardian: “Blanket bans that deny or delay patients’ access to surgery are wrong. NHS surgical treatment should be based on clinical guidance and patients should be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.”
Moreover, Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chairman of the British Medical Association’s doctors committee condemned the “blatant rationing of services” as unethical, in an interview with the Daily Telegraph.
Other commentators argue that the ban is simply in place to help ration medical spending, which is controlled by the British government. For those who are obese, recovery times in hospital can be longer, which leads to hospital beds occupied for longer periods of time.
In terms of what these means in practice, the hospitals clustered around the town of Luton (in the county of Bedfordshire) have a body mass index cut-off of 30. Above this and no standard surgical procedure will be given.
More about Obesity, Surgery, Weight, Hospital
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