Britain's NHS seeks to limit care for smokers and obese individuals

Great Britain's government-run health care system, the National Health Service (NHS), has long considered limiting coverage for people with illnesses deemed to be lifestyle-related. In 2005 the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), NHS's guiding body, advised that smokers and obese people be refused health care. Now NHS North Yorkshire and York are preventing certain operations for the obese and smokers because they say unhealthy lifestyles lower their chance of success, says the Heartland Institute.

According to Patrick Basham, director of the Democracy Institute and a Cato Institute adjunct scholar:

  • The government is overstepping its bounds by preventing people from having operations on the basis of their lifestyles.
  • The NHS is funded by British taxpayers, and throughout their lives they are told that it will be there for them when they need it.
  • Now the government is saying that although you've paid into the system throughout your life, unfortunately you will not be receiving treatment because the NHS has checked off some boxes when you were admitted to the hospital and find that you are a second-class citizen because you smoke, drink or are obese.

    Devon Herrick, a senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis, says that although everyone is supposed to receive "free" health care from the NHS, NICE determines the level of benefit from a certain drug or procedure. Based on research, the local trusts may decide the cost of a certain cancer drug is too high or not effective enough so they won't buy any or will ration it in some areas of the country.

    Source: Kenneth Artz, UK's NHS Seeks to Limit Care for Smokers, Obese, Heartland Institute, May 13, 2011.

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    First published by the National Center for Policy Analysis, United States

    FMF Policy Bulletin/ 24 May 2011
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