It makes sense to get healthy and lose weight before an operation

A few weeks ago I went head to head with Piers Morgan on Good Morning Britain. I was there to ­discuss a contentious ­public health initiative that compels people who are obese or smoke to take six months to lose weight and quit ­smoking before they can have surgery.

As it happens I’m in favour.

Both doctors and the NHS need to ensure patients are in optimal health before having on operation in order to cut the risks of surgery. To my mind it’s preventive medicine at its best.

Patients in better health will benefit most from surgery.

Plus complications will be fewer, hospital stays shorter, recovery faster.

It will save money for our cash-strapped NHS too. In fact it will free up funds for urgent cases.

Unlike critics of this scheme I don’t think it denies patients their right to treatment, it just means treatment doesn’t fall in the expected timeframe.

Treatment is deferred that’s all, and at the end of the six months patients will get their operation regardless. It’s not discriminating either. It’s not ­punitive. That’s glass half-empty thinking. I prefer to think of the glass as half full.

I see it as a positive ­opportunity for patients to take ­responsibility for their health. To invest in the end goal of long-term health by taking advantage of the unique six-month programme of help and support for weight loss and ­quitting smoking.

Don’t get me wrong, I empathise with anyone who’s trying to shed pounds and stop smoking. I’ve done both and I know the pain. In fact controlling my weight requires constant vigilance and has become an integral part of my lifestyle.

Nor do I think these new moves are, as some people have said, draconian.

There was prior consultation with the public and the scheme has public backing. It’s time for a reality check. NHS cutbacks are commonplace.

Minimum waiting time targets are being missed or scrapped. Clinical ­Commissioning Groups routinely demand 10% weight loss before surgery in obese patients. Many people can’t have surgery when they want it because there aren’t the resources. IVF services have been curtailed, even medicines provision slashed.

This is the environment in which the NHS operates these days.

Those who do take responsibility for their own heath and invest in their future health by losing weight and quitting smoking will justly get earlier treatment because they’re better prepared for surgery and lower risk.

Sounds like good practice to me.