The failure to comply with NICE guidelines on offering weight-loss surgery to obese patients is costing the UK economy hundreds of millions of pounds every year, leading surgeons have said.
A report released today by the Royal College of Surgeons, National Obesity Forum and health firms Allergan and Covidien said thousands of patients are missing out on surgery, pushing NHS costs higher.
NHS trusts are not following guidelines set down by NICE, which say people with a body mass index over 40, or between 35 and 40 if they also have a condition such as diabetes or high blood pressure, are eligible for surgery. If NICE guidance was followed, direct NHS cost savings would be around £56m a year.
The financial toll of unemployment, housing and incapacity benefit, hospital admissions and prescriptions is increasing every year but could be cut dramatically if people were given surgery, they said.
The direct cost of obesity and related illnesses to the NHS is £4.3bn a year and millions more to the wider economy in England.
Experts calculated that if 5% of eligible patients were given weight-loss surgery, the gain to the UK economy within three years would be £382m.
If 25% were granted surgery, the gain within three years would be £1.3bn.
The government could also expect savings in benefit payments of £35m to £150m as people head back to work, the study said.
Health minister Paul Burstow said: “Our ambition is to encourage healthier lifestyles and reduce the need for this type of treatment.
“As part of the Change4Life movement, we are encouraging people to make simple changes, such as eating more fruit and veg, cutting down on fatty foods and being more active.
“Our public health white paper later this year will set out plans to help people lead healthier lifestyles in more detail.”