Evil NHS bans smokers from having minor operations

NHS ‘bans’ GPs from carrying out minor operations on patients who smoke unless they promise to quit

Paul Merrett, 46, needed to have a growth from the side of his removed
Was told at King George Surgery in Stevenage, Herts., he could not have the procedure because he smoked ten roll-ups a day
‘It’s my right to be able to use it when I need it,’ Mr Merrett says
East and North Hertfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group climbed down over the case and said Mr Merrett will get the operation

PUBLISHED: 00:07, 29 September 2013 | UPDATED: 00:08, 29 September 2013

Patients are being denied minor treatments because they smoke, The Mail on Sunday has found.

In one case a healthy middle-aged man was told he could not have a ten-minute operation to cut a small benign growth off the side of his head, because of his habit.

Paul Merrett thought it would be no problem to get the inch-long fatty lump, called a lipoma, removed.

It was getting caught when he put on ear defenders and hygienic headgear for his job inspecting catering equipment. As a result, the lump was becoming painful.

But when he attended King George Surgery in Stevenage, his GP said he could not have the minor operation – which doctors often do under local anaesthetic in their own consulting rooms.

Mr Merrett, 46, said: ‘I was told, in no uncertain terms, that unless I gave up smoking or signed up to a quitting clinic they would refuse to treat me. I was gobsmacked.’

He claims the doctor told him: ‘These directions are not mine. It’s not me refusing this treatment, it’s the NHS trust.’

Mr Merrett, who smokes ten roll-ups a day, said: ‘It makes me livid. I can count how many times I have needed to rely on the NHS in the past ten years on one hand. I pay into the system and it’s my right to be able to use it when I need it.’

An increasing number of local health authorities are refusing smokers hip and knee replacements, unless they go on courses to quit smoking.

And obese people are also being told they must lose weight before costly joint replacement surgery, to increase the chances of success.

In some areas, such as Devon and Cornwall, smokers can no longer get IVF on the NHS unless they stop.

But this is the first time it has emerged that smokers are being turned down for minor treatments, where there is less evidence that smoking affects the outcome.

Simon Clark, of the pro-smoking campaign group Forest, said smokers were being targeted to cut costs.

He added: ‘Smokers pay a huge amount of money to the state through taxation – more than £10 billion a year. That far outweighs the cost of treating smoking-related diseases, and even of treating cases such as this, which have nothing whatsoever to do with smoking.

‘The NHS should treat people equally, regardless of whether they smoke. If not, they run the risk of expensive court cases.’

Yesterday, East and North Hertfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group appeared to climb down over Mr Merrett’s case.

Chief executive Lesley Watts claimed he had not been refused surgery. She said the risks of smoking and surgery would be explained to him ‘so informed consent can be obtained’ – but that he would still receive the procedure if it was safe to do so, even if he carried on smoking.

But Mr Merrett said: ‘That wasn’t what the doctor said to me. They’ve back-pedalled big-time.’

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