I have to say, the article on the BBC News site made me chuckle at first in how ridiculous it was, but then I read it again, and realised they were serious. I’ve no doubt the header saying simply “Obese may face cut to benefits.” is intended to draw the reader in. It does so effectively.
The gist of it is that Westminster Council are being reported as considering to refuse overweight or unhealthy people who won’t attend exercise sessions their full benefits.
They state a supposed “aim to save £5 billion from the NHS budget when the local authority takes over the public health provision this coming April.”
It seems proposed to work with GPs prescribing exercise to patients and they can then use a smart card to use leisure centres. They even go so far as to say that resident, housing AND council tax benefits could be varied to reward or “incentivise” patients.
The more I read of this article, the more ridiculous it seems.
So, all I can assume is that somewhere, someone is going to hold a database of all “fat” or “unhealthy” patients who have been offered, and have either accepted or refused the prescribed exercise. I have no idea how they could even begin to police this.
Is it a question of just getting a free gym membership, and where do the cut offs exist? What about skinny patients who never eat, or thin bulimics, or diabetics who tend to put on weight, and those suffering hormonal conditions? They are all “unhealthy” but are they going to be targeted as well? If so, what are the terms of meeting the conditions?
Could they simply turn up , sign in, or do they have to actively perform hari kari to fast music prescribed by a GP until their heart gives out?
I’m all for a little exercise, but I have no idea how on earth this uneven playing field could ever be levelled.
Hey, I’m up for a free gym membership to try to get my lazy ass off the sofa (joking really, I am pretty active for an unhealthy bird) but I don’t get benefits. I’m not going to be happy about this if it reaches our neck of the woods. Memberships can be hundreds of pounds a year so why should it only be those on benefits who get to go for nothing?
The other thing I have to ask about this, is why just target obesity. What about the druggies, or the alcoholics, or the wife beaters? Wouldn’t they all benefit from a little free gym exercise on prescription too?
So, in effect, for Westminster Council, they just want people to listen to their GP and they can keep their benefits.
There have to be some ways to tackle the problem in our country, but I can’t see this working how it’s been reported, after all, those who have worked up an appetite at the gym are likely to go and have a chipper and a pint on the way home as they’re starving. Never mind though, they get to keep their benefits, so it’s all ok.
What do I think of all this? I have no idea how the Tory Government would hope to save £5 billion from a scheme that is going to be almost impossible to enforce, police and keep up with. If they did do it properly, I’d love to see the NHS figures for the personal trainers, nutritionists and follow-up teams they would need to get it to have any effect whatsoever. And what about those who aren’t on benefits, why aren’t they entitled to GP help with their weight?
I think it’s all a load of codswallop, tripe and blubbery goo.
Weight gain is a reflection of a combination of emotional, lifestyle, addiction, food price and availability. Until those are also tackled, what is the point? Am I missing some seriously fundamental point from the article that brings it all together?
All I see is spending out more money so that “some” of the people can get free exercise classes. Don’t they already get that if they have a serious health problem?
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