Weight loss programmes are being cut in some areas of England despite the growing obesity crisis, leading doctors have warned.
The Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) said its members have raised concerns that intensive weight management services are not being commissioned in some parts of the country.
Surgeons are warning that the issue is becoming a “big problem” after noticing a lack of provision in some areas, an RCS spokeswoman said.
For example, the Lightening Up Programme in north Tyneside will lose its funding from April and Newcastle stopped seeing patients in September and no more funding is being made available, she said.
The RCS said a “postcode lottery” is denying some obese patients access to “vital treatment” because the weight loss programmes are a prerequisite to bariatric surgery.
NHS officials recommend that obese patients have tried all non-invasive treatment options before surgery.
The RCS said that all bariatric surgical patients are required to get support from weight management services, called tier 3 support, which helps them control their diet post-surgery.
Problems with commissioning weight management services have led to a fall in bariatric procedures, the RCS said, citing recent NHS statistics which show a 10% fall in bariatric surgeries between April 2012 and March last year.
“To hear that a postcode lottery is emerging in UK weight management provision is deeply worrying,” said RCS president Professor Norman Williams.
“The fact that access to surgery is blocked because of this means the NHS is simply storing up problems for later and compromising patient care.
“We hope to work with clinical commissioning groups to reduce this sort of variation and drive up standards of patient care across the UK.”
Richard Welbourn, president of the British Obesity and Metabolic Surgery Society, said: “It is concerning that patients are being denied access to treatment due to weight assessment and management clinics not being commissioned.
“The benefits of bariatric surgery are well-known. It leads to greater body weight loss and higher remission rates of type 2 diabetes than non-surgical treatment of obesity.
“Poor access to bariatric surgery therefore places some patients at continuing health risk. In the long run this will end up costing the NHS more.”
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