Eat your greens? Keep fit? Then go straight to the front of the hospital queue


Patients who exercise regularly and avoid fatty foods should go to the front of the queue for NHS operations, a think tank urges today.

People should be able to use supermarket bills and gym membership forms to prove they lead healthy lives and access priority non-emergency treatment, according to the centre-Left think-tank Demos. It also suggests that welfare claimants who exercise regularly should be given larger payments in recognition that they are behaving responsibly.

The think tank acknowledged its proposals were controversial, but insisted it wanted to reward people who took positive steps to lower their risk of needing medical care rather than to penalise those who were lazy or followed poor diets.

Demos is urging ministers to follow the lead of insurance companies which already offer incentives to customers to lead healthier lifestyles by offering them discounts on gym memberships. "There is scope for the NHS to provide its non-emergency services in a way that takes account of responsible behaviour," it argues in a new report.

But Katherine Murphy, the chief executive of the Patients Association, said: "Proactive investment in prevention, public campaigns and health literacy can deliver change more con-structively than punitive sanctions."