Unhealthy 'may be denied treatment'
Free medical treatments could be cut back in the next decade as the NHS struggles under the strain of Britons' unhealthy lifestyles, a report has warned.
Penalties could also be imposed on people who refuse to change their behaviour through similar legislation to the smoking ban, according to predictions made by Friends Provident and the Future Foundation.
The report - Visions of Britain 2020 - maps out the potential impact of people eating unhealthily, exercising too little and drinking too much alcohol despite Government health campaigns.
Experts told the researchers they predicted treatments including IVF and fertility treatment, dental treatment, obesity surgery and drugs, dementia treatment and complementary therapies will no longer be free in 2020.
A poll for the report found Suffolk residents had the unhealthiest lifestyles, exercising the least compared with 10 other regions in the UK.
They were also least likely to take notice of their calorie intake and the least likely to follow recommended alcohol guidelines, according to the survey of 1,000 consumers.
Dr Sarah Brewer, a GP and medical journalist who was consulted for the report, said: "We all know that we should follow a healthy low-fat diet, eat at least five (portions of fruit and vegetables) a day etc.
"But how many actually do anything about it? Unless an unhealthy diet and lifestyle is penalised in some way no-one will change."
Trevor Matthews, chief executive officer of Friends Provident, said: "We all know that the NHS will probably change in years to come, but some of the behaviours identified in the report mean that these changes will be much harder on us than what we expect them to be.
"We all need to adopt healthier lifestyles or else risk being faced with penalties in the years ahead."