Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders found a lot of support from Democrats in the Senate when he introduced a bill to create a single-payer health care system in the U.S. earlier this year. While Sanders said, “health care is a right,” one nation often held up as a model for what the U.S. should have is facing another public relations nightmare as the National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom has moved to indefinitely block all non-urgent surgeries for people who smoke or are obese.
“The NHS will ban patients from surgery indefinitely unless they lose weight or quit smoking, under controversial plans drawn up in Hertfordshire,” reports the UK Telegraph.
Under the new rules, smokers and obese patients “will not get non-urgent surgery until they reduce their weight,” unless there is something “exceptional” about their circumstances.
Smokers will have to be smoke-free for 8 weeks before they will qualify as a candidate for surgery and will be “breathalysed before referral” to prove they have not been partaking in tobacco products.
Officials said, “This policy is designed to improve patient safety and outcomes, both during and immediately after non-urgent surgery. No financial savings are expected as a result of these measures. We do however hope to improve the long-term health of our residents through the targeted stop-smoking and weight-loss support on offer to patients.”
The decision was met with outrage by patient advocates. “This is absolutely disgraceful – we all pay our taxes, and the NHS should be there when we need it; we did not agree to a two-tier system,” said Joyce Robins, from a group called Patient Concern.
The NHS has come under fire for similar moves in the past when the declared they would “delay surgery for up to nine months for those with a high BMI, telling them to lose at least 10 per cent of their weight. The new rules increase the amount of weight the heaviest patients must lose – and crucially, they mean those who fail to lose weight or give up smoking could wait indefinitely.”
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