In April of this year, the Vale of York clinical commissioning group (CCG) voiced their plans to make people wait for up to a year for treatment for non-life-threatening conditions such as hip and knee replacements if their body mass index is 30 or higher. The same restriction was to be put on smokers, with treatment being refused if they did not ditch the cigs. The decision incited a wave of criticism, with many stating that smokers and the obese are being seen as ‘easy targets’ and some going as far as comparing it to ‘racial discrimination.’ Following the backlash, the plans have been put on hold . When considering the future of the NHS however, was this really a step too far?
As we are all aware, the NHS is currently going through a period of uncertainty and strain, with budget cuts and insufficient staffing levels featuring heavily in headline news. With more cuts expected to take place over the next few years, it’s time to establish where money can be saved.
What is the cost of obesity?
The cost to the UK economy of overweight and obesity was estimated at £15.8 billion per year in 2007, including £4.2 billion in costs to the NHS. Taking into account the costs of treating obesity, lost earnings due to premature mortality and lost earnings due to attributable sickness among other things, the cost to society is predicted to rise to £50 billion by 2050.
What is the cost of smoking?
The cost of treating smokers in England was estimated at £2.7 billion in 2006 . Further to that there are costs in other areas such as the loss in productivity due to premature deaths (£4bn), cost to businesses of smoking breaks (£5.8bn), smoking-related sick days (£979m), social care costs of older smokers (£1.1bn) and the costs of fires caused by smokers’ materials (£259m).
What is the cost of routine operations?
Tim Wilton, president of the British Orthopedic Association, highlighted the cost of the most routine operations that smokers and obese patients were being refused:
He concluded that hip and knee replacements were very cheap for the NHS, costing an average of just £1 a day, ‘There is no clinical or value for money justification for refusing to fund hip or knee replacements based on BMI or smoker status,’ he added.
The true cost of smoking and obesity to your health
There is certainly a case to be made for encouraging a healthier lifestyle; however total refusal to treat those who are smokers or that are obese may not necessarily be the answer. With smoking and obesity being classed as two of the top contributors to life threatening illnesses and early deaths in the UK, it is time to assess the efforts we are making to live a healthy lifestyle to ensure we are caring for our bodies the best we can.
To learn more about how you can stop smoking, please read our blog which identifies 10 ways you can beat cigarette cravings. Please tell us what you think in the comments box below – we want to hear your thoughts.
If you are struggling with obesity and you want to talk with others and share tips and advice on how to shift the weight, please join in the conversation via the talkweight forum.