In the news recently, it has been shown that over 20% of the population are regular smokers, and over 64% of adults are classed as overweight or obese. These figures, whilst through the roof, do not come as a shock. Although regular health warnings are given to the dangers of smoking or being overweight, the fact is that the population as a whole is not doing enough about this. It could then be understandable that in Devon, where the NHS runs at a deficit of £14.5m, that doctors are now going to ask patients to contribute to their own health.
The Devon Clinical Commissioning Group
Starting immediately, under what the Devon Clinical Commissioning group have called “urgent and necessary measures”, patients who have a BMI of 35 or over and smokers will be asked to reduce their body weight by 5%, and prove that they have not smoked for eight weeks prior to their operation.
Whilst some may argue that this is denying those who are overweight or smoke a healthy life, it is an urgent measure which should shock the rest of the UK into realising that our health as a population is at risk. Whilst food and cigarettes are treated as addictives, the NHS is under monetary pressure which could be helped by those who are at risk.
A Lifestyle Choice
There are over 10 million smokers in the UK. This is despite the fact that on every cigarette packet comes a health warning: “Smoking Kills”, “Smoking causes lung cancer” or “Smoking causes impotence” being some of the most popular slogans that we have all seen. Yet this forgettable slogan comes with a huge threat – over 100,000 people in the UK alone die each year from smoking-related illnesses, and yet the number of smokers has not decreased hugely in the last 10 years. Smoking is a lifestyle choice, you choose to smoke the first cigarette, and thus should be treated as something that we can choose to stop. The monetary deficit that the NHS faces at the moment will only increase due to the number of people who could live a smoke-free life, but continue to smoke.
So why do people still smoke?
We’re all guilty of buckling under peer pressure. Even if the pressure is not in the traditional sense, simply being around a friend who is smoking will make you twice as likely to want to try it for yourself. I’ve smoked in the past and know that at some point, when drunk I’ll probably smoke again, when making rational decisions doesn’t happen as easily. Yet walking around my campus on a day-to-day basis I’m still astounded at the amount of people who smoke. We are all intelligent enough to have got in to University, yet a large amount of people seem incapable of stopping themselves from smoking. By no means am I saying the road to quitting smoking is an easy one, it takes willpower and determination that most of the time is difficult to simply summon from thin air. But the pressure that the NHS faces from lung-cancer patients and emphysema sufferers that could be prevented is shocking. I believe this decision is understandable of the Devonshire NHS, and believe that this should become nationwide criteria for an operation.
Obesity and Nutrition Education
The same could be said for morbid obesity, however the lack of education about nutrition and the importance of a balanced and healthy life is partially to blame for the shocking statistics. The amount of people who are overweight and obese, however, is shocking. The knock-on effect on someone’s health from being overweight can be anything from diabetes to living for 20 less years, according to the NHS. Britain has also not only been shown as in the top 5 most overweight country, but it is among the worst for obesity-related cancer issues. The threat of being overweight is not discussed and stressed enough, and should be taught to children and adults alike.
The Devonshire NHS is mainly putting this new policy to practice for hip and knee operations, as being overweight or obese puts a huge amount of pressure on the body, and a decrease in body weight would mean that the limb would have a better chance of recovering after the operation. It seems logical then, for this to be put in to practice, not only for the benefit of the NHS but for the patient, who would avoid recurrent surgeries and a longer recovery period.
Inhumane or Understandable?
It may seem inhumane to deny someone treatment for something that is causing them pain, but I believe that if someone wants to be helped to that degree, they should at least try to help themselves to begin with. The addiction to food and cigarettes is not to be undermined as easy to control or stop, but I believe an obese person or a smoker attempting to change their lifestyle will be mutually beneficial.
There is so much support out there for smokers to stop smoking, and there is a growing amount of support available for overweight or obese people, that will probably continue to grow as we as a nation do.
Here are some useful links: