Despite their widespread use, the impact of commissioners’ policies for body mass index (BMI) for access to elective surgery is not clear. Policy use varies by locality, and there are concerns that these policies may worsen health inequalities. This study in BMC Medicine aimed to assess the impact of policies for BMI on access to hip replacement surgery in England.
The authors used National Joint Registry data for 480,364 patients who had primary hip replacement surgery in England between January 2009 and December 2019. They found that rates of surgery fell after localities introduced policies restricting access to surgery based on BMI, whereas rates rose in localities with no policy. Localities with BMI policies have higher proportions of independently funded surgery and more affluent patients receiving surgery, indicating increasing health inequalities, and policies enforcing extra waiting time before surgery were associated with worsening mean pre-operative symptom scores and rising obesity.
The authors recommend that BMI policies involving extra waiting time or mandatory BMI thresholds are no longer used to reduce access to hip replacement surgery.