ALMOST 2,500 patients in the York area have experienced delays to routine surgery because they are obese or smoke.

The cash strapped NHS Vale of York Clinical Commissioning Group introduced controversial restrictions on non-urgent operations to save money early last year, and figures show that £2.7 million was saved in 2017/18.

But the impact on patients has also emerged with statistics, obtained through a Freedom of Information request, showing that more than 100 people a month in the Vale region are being told they face delays of a year for routine surgery if they are obese, or six months if they smoke.

And since the restrictions were introduced in February last year, nearly 1,500 obese patients, 700 smokers and 200 people who are both obese and smokers have been told their surgery will be delayed unless they shed weight or give up smoking.

The delays have been slated by Professor Neil Mortensen, Vice President of the Royal College of Surgeons, who claimed it was 'cruel to leave patients even just a month longer than necessary in pain and distress.'

He said:"We agree that the NHS should be supporting obese patients to lose weight, and smokers to stop smoking. However, restricting their timely access to necessary surgery is the wrong way to go about it.

“We are disappointed that Vale of York CCG has persisted with its plan to delay access to surgery for patients who do not meet their weight and smoking status criteria."

He said surgery could dramatically improve a person’s quality of life and such delays impacted on their ability to carry out day-to-day tasks, work and look after themselves.

"It is also likely they will end up costing the NHS more through the need for prolonged pain medication and physiotherapy," he said.

“Over the last few years we’ve seen more and more clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) impose these sorts of policies to save money, effectively creating a postcode lottery for routine surgeries such as hip and knee replacements.

“We strongly urge Vale of York CCG to ditch its unfair policies and hope that when the Government’s promised extra funding for the NHS becomes available, CCGs across England will begin to reverse similar policies.”

But a CCG spokesman said research showed that obese patients and those that smoked were 'more likely to experience infection at the surgical site, poor wound healing, bleeding and blood clots in limbs and lungs, breathing problems, loosening, failure or dislocation of a new joint etc.'

He said: "The clinical thresholds are one of the ways that makes patients aware of these risks so they can take steps to minimise these before a procedure. The thresholds have been received positively by patients who have welcomed the opportunity to optimise their own health.

"If a patient needs surgery and their weight is significantly higher than it should be or they are a smoker, their GP and / or specialist will explain the importance of losing weight or stopping smoking before any surgical intervention takes place.

"This GP / specialist and patient relationship is key in helping individuals monitoring their progress to achieve better health by losing weight and stopping smoking. In some cases losing weight or stopping smoking can relieve symptoms altogether, helping the patient to avoid any surgical intervention.

"All patients are offered access to smoking cessation and / or weight management concurrently regardless of the urgency of their symptoms."