A health chief has admitted his plan to delay non-urgent surgery for obese people and smokers will create a postcode lottery in West Yorkshire.
The Examiner revealed last June that Greater Huddersfield Clinical Commissioning Group (GHCCG) was plotting a change in policy to block people who are too fat or those who smoke from getting straight in the queue for routine operations.
Those who were over a BMI of 30 would be put to the back of the queue and given between six months and a year to shed some weight.
Smokers will be put through a similar process.
The policy does not affect urgent surgery or children and exceptions will be made based on clinical need.
Kirklees will be one of the first places in the country to bring in the controversial system.
A Kirklees Council committee has now grilled CCG bosses on their plan and demanded they do more research into its potential impact.
Councillors and co-opted members of the Health and Adult Social Care Scrutiny Committee accused the CCG of creating a postcode lottery.
Dr Steve Ollerton, clinical lead at GHCCG, admitted neither Calderdale nor Wakefield had immediate plans to bring in an identical scheme.
With the regions’ three hospitals taking patients from all three areas, Dr Ollerton admitted Kirklees patients would be the first to fall foul of the plan.
But he said he was confident all three would bring it in at some point.
“We can’t have people in Huddersfield having one thing and Calderdale the other,” he said.
“All hospitals in West Yorkshire are being told to look at this, but the reality is six hospital trusts and 11 CCGs co-ordinating their plans at the same time just won’t happen.”
Chairman of the committee, Clr Liz Smaje, pointed out there could even be a postcode lottery within Kirklees, with most north Kirklees patients being sent to Pinderfields or Dewsbury for procedures.
Dr Ollerton admitted she was correct.
He added: “We will do our bit to minimise it.”
“It’s not very fair, is it?” said Clr Smaje.
“No,” said Dr Ollerton. “But I as a GP have a choice where to refer people to.
“I would hope we can line up Huddersfield and Calderdale with Mid Yorkshire at some point.”
CCG officials have said the policy will not prevent people from getting the operations they need and is merely to give them a better outcome.
But Prof Peter Bradshaw, a co-optee of the panel and a former health policy advisor to the Margaret Thatcher government, said: “There’s got to be some recognition that this is health rationing.
“The evidence that it isn’t, isn’t enough to convince the ordinary person.”
A CCG official disagreed, commenting: “If this is rationing, it’s not very good because people will still get their surgery in the end. People will still be getting treated in the same way they were before.”
But David Rigby, another co-opted member, hit back.
“You’re going to introduce a barrier to surgery that wasn’t there before.” he said.
The committee agreed the change was “significant” giving them the power to ask the CCG to do more work.
They have urged the it to do more consultation with the public before they implement the plan, including giving more detail about the exceptions to the policy and the timelines for people who are made to follow it.