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12 January 2012, 12:10
People who are obese in Hertfordshire will no longer be allowed to have routine operations on the NHS until they've lost weight.
GPs will no longer refer patients for routine surgery if they have a Body Mass Index of 40 or more, and people with a BMI of 30 or more if they have conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes.
Hertfordshire is thought to be the first area of the country where this policy has been brought in. Smokers in Herts are also being given strong encouragement to quit before they go under the knife.
NHS bosses in Hertfordshire say "there is strong clinical evidence that obese patients undergoing surgery are at significantly higher risk of getting infections and suffering heart, kidney and lung problems than people who are a healthy weight.
"They are also likely to have to spend more time in hospital recovering and their risk of dying as a result of surgery is higher compared to patients with a normal weight.
Dr Tony Kostick, Chair of East and North Herts Clinical Commissioning Group said "there is always a risk when patients are given an anaesthetic but there is strong clinical evidence that proves that this risk is significantly higher whey they are overweight and if they smoke.
"These patients are much more likely to suffer serious breathing problems, get infections, have heart, kidney and lung complications. It also takes them longer to recover and they have a higher risk of dying under anaesthetic.
"So for these health reasons in this area patients will not be booked for routine surgery until they have lost weight."
The measures only apply to people who need routine, planned surgery. People who are overweight will still be able to have urgent or emergency surgery such as to treat cancer. There will also be times when patients will be able to get planned surgery on the NHS even though they are overweight.