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Warning over obesity surgery limit

Restricting treatment for obese patients is a decision the NHS would regret in years to come, a group of surgeons has warned.

A study has revealed that severely obese patients are at risk of disability, disease and early death, which could be avoided if they underwent surgery.

Research conducted by the National Bariatric Surgery Registry (NBSR) discovered that a number of life-threatening conditions can be treated through obesity surgery, including reducing the number of patients who develop type 2 diabetes by 86%.

The results of the study show that tackling weight-loss early is cost-effective, surgeons have suggested.

Out of more than 8,700 operations that were conducted in the NHS and private sector, two thirds of people who were severely obese had developed three or more related diseases by the point that they underwent surgery.

Meanwhile, a third had high blood pressure, over a quarter had diabetes and nearly a fifth had high cholesterol.

Following surgery, patients who had a 12-month follow-up examination lost some 58% of excess weight. And there was improvement on all associated diseases.

After two years, 86% of those affected by diabetes before surgery showed no indication of the disease.

The NBSR said the cost of bariatric surgery - which includes gastric bypasses and gastric bands - is recouped within three years as obesity-associated costs are eliminated.

Bariatric surgeon Alberic Fiennes, chairman of the NBSR data committee, said: “This data shows that not only is UK bariatric surgery safe, but it successfully treats a whole range of diseases - including the rapid resolution of diabetes - yet commissioners continue to ignore the facts.

“An approach that limits treatment to a fraction of those who would benefit is one which the NHS will rue in years to come as these patients become an unsustainable burden on the health service.

“Prevention strategy alone has proved ineffective. There are at least two generations of morbidly obese patients who are now presenting with diabetes, stroke, heart disease and cancer for whom preventative measures are utterly irrelevant.

“The numbers are increasing - these people need to be treated.”

Readers' comments (3)

  • It is all too easy for health professionals to be judgemental about obesity. Its causes are myriad, some the fault of the sufferer, some not. The pragmatic approach should be to deal with obesity and its effects as effectively as possible, without any value judgements. What is important is the health of the nation, and the cost to the NHS of failure to control obesity in the population. Bariatric surgery seems to be a very cost-effective method of treating obesity and its concomitant ill health.

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  • As a registered nurse I have seen the benefit of obsesity surgery.
    In January last year I underwent a gastric sleeve after almost 25years of struggling to control my weight to the point where I was over 20stone partly due to an undiagnosed underactive thyroid.
    I was lucky that although being super morbidly obese I had no major health problems.
    Just over a year later I weighed in at 79kg a total loss of 8 stone, now with such a reduced stomach I cannot help but eat sensibly and more importantly slowly (most nurses will understand how short breaks encourage us to eat quickly which does not allow our body to feel satisfied). I have loads more energy and feel I actually work better and more efficiently and have drastically reduced my chances of developing any life threatening illness linked to obesity.

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  • Anonymous

    The troubling aspect here is the value judgement thing - combine that with the way that very coarse tick-box guidance seems to infiltrate the NHS, and I tend to dislike many 'value judgements'.

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