The NHS is funded by the common taxpayer, so there will inevitably be limits on the amount of money that can be used to treat individuals and some treatments will be deemed too expensive. As a result, many patients are denied NHS treatment, for example, NHS breast cancer patients are currently being denied Kadcyla, a drug which is clinically proven to extend life of patients with advanced breast cancer. Due to the detrimental effects that restrictions of resources within the NHS has caused and will continue to cause in the future, it is clear that allocation of resources within the NHS needs to be carefully balanced. Below I’ve considered the treatment of people who are overweight or obese, but similar resource dilemmas apply to alcohol abusers, smokers, travellers to risky places and extreme sports enthusiasts. Therefore, should the free treatment of people on the NHS who are overweight, be reconsidered?
As an official statistic of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation in 2013, 61.7% of the UK population are obese or overweight. In addition, 24.9% of the UK population is obese, which is the highest level of obesity in Western Europe, ahead of countries such as France, Germany, Spain and Sweden, the 2013 report says. The level of obesity has trebled in the past thirty years due to changes in life styles. If this trend continues, more than half the population will be obese by 2050. An adult is classed as overweight if they have a BMI of between 25 and 29, furthermore, they are classed as obese if they have a BMI over 30. By being obese or overweight, it puts you at an increased likelihood of developing illnesses and diseases such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes and cancer. Consequently, you are at increased risk of needing treatment, for example, during 2011-12 there were 11,736 hospital admissions due to obesity. This is in addition to the direct treatment of obesity with prescription diet drugs and surgical gastric bands.
Despite this, the NHS has a duty to deliver and provide free health care to all UK citizens according to their needs. Therefore, some people believe all NHS patients who are overweight should be allowed treatment, unless there is overwhelming evidence that instructs the doctors against treating the patients. Furthermore, Health England has recognised the prevalence of obesity amongst the deprived, therefore it could be classed as an act of social inequality to deny treatment to overweight patients. Patient’s socioeconomic status shouldn’t be discriminated against as it is against their human rights. In addition, the department of Health believe that care shouldn’t be denied “on the base of arbitrary blanket bans”, consequently the individual needs of the patients should be accounted for prior to doctors making the decision on whether to treat the individual.
Thank you for reading!