A hip replacement patient took an £11,500 loan to pay for an operation after the NHS postponed treatment due to his weight.
Roland Crooke was in “huge pain” when he was denied surgery by Vale of York Clinical Commissioning Group [CCG].
The group’s guidelines mean anyone with a body mass index higher than 30 must lose weight or wait a year for non-emergency procedures.
Bosses from the organisation said it has to make difficult decisions.
Mr Crooke, 67, told councillors on a City of York health, housing and adult social care committee that he was just weeks away from surgery when he learnt about the BMI guidelines.
According to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, he said: “This is clearly a rationing measure dressed up in clinical clothes. It leaves hundreds of patients in pain for longer.
“It discriminates against overweight people and probably the less active elderly.”
Mr Crooke, who was talking morphine to cope with the pain, said he could only walk short distances when he learnt about the rules.
Although he had already lost 5.5 stone (35kg) since 2013, he said the pain meant he could not exercise so he paid for the surgery himself.
The Vale of York CCG – which serves a population of more than 351,000 in areas including York, Selby and Tadcaster and parts of East Yorkshire – approved plans to delay routine surgery for smokers and obese people in September 2016.
They were put on hold when NHS England and the Royal College of Surgeons raised concerns, but NHS England bosses later approved the plan and it was introduced in January 2017.
It has saved £2.2 million in its first year, according to CCG documents.
At a meeting on Wednesday, clinical chairman Dr Nigel Wells admitted the policy was not ideal but said his organisation faces financial challenges.
“This city, this CCG and this local authority has to take hard decisions regarding where health spending happens,” Dr Wells added.
“The biggest risk in the Vale of York CCG is around children’s mental health and access to services.
“I know that this policy has not been good for our relationships with patients or for our relationships with clinicians and in an ideal world this would not be the way that you would do it.”
He said everyone who needs an operation should get one, but many patients have been able to avoid surgery by making lifestyle changes.
York councillor Chris Cullwick, who sits on the health committee, said Mr Crooke’s experience was “disturbing”.
He added: “We all understand the context and why the managing of demand has been necessitated.
“It certainly illustrates how there’s a very real danger of exacerbating health inequalities. Not everyone can afford private healthcare.”