Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group has dropped controversial ‘rationing’ plans that would have restricted elective surgery to smokers and obese patients.

Last week NEW Devon, the largest CCG in the country, outlined proposals requiring morbidly obese patients to lose up to 5 per cent of their weight before they could have routine surgery.

Under the plans smokers would also have had to show they had stopped smoking for eight weeks.

The measures were supposed to help the group find £26m of in-year savings and avoid finishing the year with a cumulative deficit of £30m.

However, today - just hours before a Commons debate on the issue - the CCG announced it was dropping the idea.

It said it took the decision following “significant feedback from a wide range of stakeholders”.

A spokesman for NEW Devon said: “We announced a series of measures to improve health outcomes in October.

“This produced a helpful public debate which we have followed with interest.

“We have come to the conclusion that there is already a strong public acceptance of the need for people to continue to take responsibility for their own health and wellbeing.

“We have therefore decided to further promote smoking cessation and weight loss services to improve outcomes for patients.”

Earlier in the week, appearing at the Commons health committee, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said his organisation had “reservations” about the approach.

“I would be surprised if that turns out to be the principal route to getting themselves ship shape going forward,” he said.

He added that the CCG would want to “reflect” on questions that had been raised about the policy.

NEW Devon said it would continue with other cost saving measures such as changing from branded drugs to more generic ones.

It said other proposals, such as restricting funding to one hearing aid, would be subject to consultation.