City of York councillors voted unanimously last night to oppose a CCG plan to withhold surgery from smokers and obese patients.
The result will see the Conservative-led Council write to the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, to object to the NHS rationing proposals in the ‘strongest possible terms’.
In a landmark case being watched nationally, Vale of York Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) earlier this year announced plans to withhold surgery from adults who smoke or who are obese for up to 6 and 12 months respectively. This has prompted fears that, if left unchallenged, the move could set a precedent that would be followed by NHS leaders across England.
The move comes against a backdrop of record financial challenges for the NHS, with York’s CCG facing a £24m black hole in its finances. This has prompted claims that the decision is a reaction to the national NHS funding crisis rather than being based on clinical judgement.
The Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) has labelled the move ‘frankly shocking’, and has been clear that the policy put forward by NHS bosses in York was ‘unacceptable for a number of reasons’.
Vice President of the RCS Ian Eardley wrote to all councillors in York prior to the decisive council meeting last night, highlighting how the policy breaches the NHS constitution and National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidance.
He also says that the policy has the potential to both worsen the health of those affected as well as add to costs in the long run.
Labour Councillor Stuart Barnes, whose motion was passed unanimously by all parties in the city, said:
“I agree entirely that we should all do as much as we can to take responsibility for our own health, however the facts remain that levels of smoking and obesity are higher among more deprived communities. As such, this policy will hit the poorest hardest.
Worse still is that fact that this policy is being introduced at the same time as the public health budget in the city has seen cuts of £1.2m to its budget in the past two years, leading to cuts in services that would previously have helped people to quit smoking.
The Labour party will always fight against any policy that would lead to a growth in inequalities, and this in no exception.”