People who smoke or who are obese have been told they must look after themselves before the NHS will help them.


The local health authority NHS Harrogate and the Rural District Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has said it will be referring smokers and those with a Body Mass Index (BMI) which is over 30 to quit smoking or diet clinics before they are able to have surgery.


BMI is based on a person’s height and weight. Those who are underweight have a BMI of less than 18.5. A healthy weight is between 18.5 and 44.9 while overweight is 25 to 29.9 and you are said to be obese if your BMI is 30 or higher.


Health bosses say they have had no choice but to put the plans in place as they try to shave a massive £8.4million from their budget.


Amanda Bloor, the CCG’s chief officer, said: “The measures we are taking encourage patients to take a greater responsibility for their lifestyle choices. It is vital that patients are given the skills and knowledge to take accountability for their own wellbeing to ensure we all lead healthier lifestyles.”


She said that by sending smokers and the obese for get help for six-months to make the lifestyle changes necessary for optimum health, they would have better clinical outcomes when they did undergo surgery.


With the NHS under constant financial pressure due to smoking-related illnesses such as lung cancer and respiratory problems, and a population with ever expanding waistlines, she said tough action was necessary to protect the financial future of health care services as a whole.


But whether Harrogate is allowed to go through with its plans remains to be seen. Just a month ago, NHS England stepped in and stopped the nearby NHS Vale of York CCG from putting in place similar rules after the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) said it had serious concerns.

An RCS spokesperson said: “The RCS is very supportive of encouraging patients to join programmes that help them lose weight or stop smoking before surgery. However, making it a condition of receiving that surgery, no matter how sick they are or how much pain they are in, is wrong.”

Harrogate says the new rules will not apply to certain groups most in need of treatment, including patients who need urgent cancer surgery and children or frail elderly people.