Patients who refuse to give up smoking will not receive certain operations on the NHS, health bosses have revealed.
Hospitals in Norfolk and Newcastle, both of which are battling severe financial difficulties, will prevent smokers from having life-changing operations such as hip and knee replacements, although urgent procedures will still be available, managers said.
According to the Daily Mail, patients will only be given treatments when they try to give up, as managers believe that smokers are more likely to suffer complications.
Dr John Battersby, director of public health at Norfolk Primary Care Trust, revealed: "There is increasing evidence that smokers have three times the number of complications as non-smokers.
"What we are proposing is that if someone who smokes is being referred for surgery, we would instead want them to be referred to a smoking cessation clinic and give them three months to stop smoking."
Although Dr Battersby maintained that the move would not be "an absolute block" on smokers getting surgery, he said that patients would enjoy "a better outcome" if they stopped smoking and there would be a positive impact on the health system as a result.
However, a spokesman for the pro-smoking pressure group Forest told the Daily Mail that the policy was simply "blackmail".
"[Smokers] are entitled to free healthcare and health trusts do not have the right to make up conditions," Neil Rafferty insisted.
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Private Hospital News : 23/10/2006