A WOMAN who needs a knee replacement has been told she must lose weight or fund the £13,000 operation herself - a policy branded “ridiculous” by an orthopaedic surgeon .

Elizabeth Moran, 68, from Haxby, York, is in severe pain and very immobile but has been told to lose weight or wait for surgery.

The decision is due to a controversial policy at NHS Vale of York Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG)’ which says anyone with a body mass index (BMI) higher than 30 must lose weight or wait a year for non-emergency procedures. The policy has enabled the CCG to save £2.2 million in the past 12 months.

But Mrs Moran, who has lost a stone in the past four months, said she finds it very difficult to lose weight as severe pain stops her exercising.

York CCG said the policy aimed to improve health. Patients who failed to lose weight were not denied surgery permanently and could apply to be treated as exceptional cases, it added.

Mrs Moran, a retired teacher who is married to Neil, said: “Not only do I experience pain but I am very immobile, making any efforts to reduce my BMI difficult.

“Despite what the York CCG like to suggest, many of these joint replacement operations are carried out under spinal anaesthetic, which is not affected by BMI. Successful recovery afterwards depends on how well a patient carries out an exercise regime and physiotherapy, again nothing to do with BMI."

The mum-of-four and grandmother-of-five added: “Patients in York are being denied the treatment and care they need whilst patients in Leeds and Harrogate can receive it for free.”

Mrs Moran’s case has now been backed by Chloe Scott, an orthopaedic surgeon at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, who spoke out on social media after a similar story in The Press regarding Roland Crooke, who took out £11,500 in loans to fund his operation.

Mrs Scott tweeted that the BMI limit of 30 was “totally ridiculous” and “sounded like extreme rationing unsupported by clinic evidence”.

Speaking to The Press, Mrs Scott said: “Patients with BMI over 30 represent 20 to 30 per cent of patients where I work, where we have no BMI cut off. Denying this group of patients surgery amounts to a significant financial saving.

“Furthermore, just under 50 per cent of patients looking for a knee operation at my work have a BMI over 30. Both BMI and the ability to lose weight are associated with social deprivation, so this type of arbitrary cut-off introduces social inequality in access to joint replacement surgery.

“Leaving patients in pain who could otherwise be successfully treated with joint replacement is not benign, having adverse effects on general health and contributing to an increasing reliance on strong opiate medication.”

A spokesman for York CCG said the policy, introduced in 2017, formed an important part of the Vale of York Prevention and Better Health Strategy.

He said it aimed to “improve the health of the local population and the outcomes from any elective surgery they may need”.

The spokesman added: “It is important to point out that patients who do not stop smoking or lose weight are not denied surgery and a patient may be considered to be clinically exceptional to the general policy.

“Where there is an exceptional clinical need, the patient’s clinician can make an Individual Funding Request (IFR). The IFR Panel consists of two GPs, supported by appropriate specialists, who assess the clinical information and evidence provided by the patient’s clinician alongside the consideration of the application against set criteria laid down in the policy.

“Research shows that obese patients and those that smoke are 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. 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.

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