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Weight loss surgery could save NHS £56m a year


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.”


Readers' comments (37)

  • No, what is costing them £56 million a year is pandering to people who refuse to change their piss poor lifestyle choices. I mean how much does bariatric surgery cost as well? Tell them to lose the weight or they will be denied treatment. That will save even more money!

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  • Just hang on a sec! I acknowledge that I am overweight; I also have diabetes and high blood pressure but I eat a healthy diet and try to exercise when my psoriatic arthritis, fibromyalgia and general chronic pain and occasional anaemia allow! I also walk with a stick.

    However, I still go to work as a nurse practitioner in a very busy Walk-in Centre and indeed worked with a Hb of 8 a couple of years ago; I have been scrutinized by an external assessor in order to arrange changes to my work environment and adjustment my shift patterns so I can contiue to work. But I have never, ever claimed any benifits, housing, incapacity or otherwise.

    I suspect many of my current health problems relate to a career spent working in various A&E Departments over a period of 20+ years;working long, busy shifts with chronic staff shortages, few or no meal breaks, drinks or loo visits; stressed to the max. with targets to meet and no-one listening as standards of care deteriorated.

    So Mike don't tar everyone with the same brush!!!! I suspect there are a lot more indignant nurses out there in the same boat as my good self also incandesant with rage at your sweeping generalizations.

    NB: I have never been offered any weight loss surgery either!

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  • >I suspect there are a lot more indignant nurses out there in the same boat as my good self also incandesant with rage at your sweeping generalizations.

    Bet non of them walk to work and and endlessly moan about car parking charges and all fit into the intersecting ven diagram Pie Lovers/Salad Dodgers.

    I couldn't care less about this story - more NT troll bait; genuinely sorry to hear about your ill health though.

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  • I'm new to this online service and find Mike antagonistic, rude and bombastic.
    Does he do anything other than stir up controversy?
    Is he real or a plant to annoy everyone?
    I note his absence of comment on many serious issues - he just seems to comment when he can be incendiary.
    I am bored by his childishness

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  • Anonymous | 9-Sep-2010 8:25 am, I will debate on any 'serious' issue you seem fit to debate on, just have a look through my previous comments to see that I debate on a variety of issues. And yes I offer my opinions on a variety of subjects too, that is the purpose of forums like this, they are OPINION forums, they are not the sterilised envioronments where all the right on sheep can pat themselves on their backs with their liberal crap.

    I notice that whilst you attack mne personally, you offer no real debate of your own. So come on then, if you want to debate this topic (and I think obesity/bariatric Nursing/the costs to the NHS ARE serious issues), bring it on. Offer an intelligent argument of your own, because quite frankly I am bored of childish insults from 'anonymous' contributors with no evidence of intelligence or debate in their posts.

    Anonymous | 8-Sep-2010 2:57 pm, To be honest the reasons behind your weight problems are beside the point. The point is you have got to this level through the choices you have made. And whilst I may not have served as much time as you, I have put my fair share of time in on A&E and the wards, worked the same shift patterns with all the negative health effects that come with it, yet I managed to stay fit and healthy. I am not perfect by any means, but for every Nurse (or any worker for that matter) who blames obesity/health problems on work, there are usually as many people in that same job who have made better choices.

    Now, back to the main issue. Why should the NHS continue to fund poor lifestyle choices? Why? I don't think it should, it is already on its knees and resources are not infinite, so tell me why you disagree with that?

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  • We all have a degree of freedom of choice over our lifestyle. Some people choose to present themselves to their fellow human beings as a person who is in charge of their image, weight, dress, hair, etc. Others just seem to run off the rails. However , there is really only one way to get fat and that is putting too much food in your mouth .Is it a lack of pride ? Have they lost the way? Do they need help ? I have worked in nursing for aeons and weigh the same as when I started so you really cant blame work load. Any bright suggestions on ways to help fat .... we are now allowed to use the word .. people ?

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  • Anonymous | 10-Sep-2010 9:14 am Exactly! A bit of common sense at last!

    I agree that everyone is allowed a degree of freedom of choice, noone is meant to go through life as a robot, but I do think alongside that is an equal personal responsibility to ensure that that same freedom does not impinge on personal health. That is a major problem I think, there is a complete lack of personal responsibility in many people, and it is often reinforced by the NHS who can often 'medicalise' and excuse peoples poor lifestyle choices and take the responsibility away from them; (it's not my fault its my ...). It doesn't matter what they do to themselves, the NHS will always provide a safety net, and I think that is wrong.

    I think that there are 1001 reasons why people choose (and I do use that term very purposely) to make these poor lifestyle decisions and get fat, drink too much, smoke, etc etc etc. But like you say, there really is only one way to get too fat so the reasons behind it don't really matter.

    We all face the same decisions and the same factors that will impinge on our healthy lifestyle; work is one of the major ones, especially with work patterns like ours. But like you and I have both said previously work patterns are nothing new and people have managed to maintain healthy lifestyles for generations with those work patterns (and yes I count myself amongst that), so it can't be used as an excuse.

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  • I think it is all to do with your feeling of self worth. You feel good about your self, you make sure you look good. Something happens, a bereavement a dissapointment a loss of self esteem and bingo , you either under or over eat. Both conditions are equally dangerous and body dismorphia is very common. Every body had a time when they need help, a little chat, counselling . I think we need to be more understanding and less dismissive of other peoples problems. However daft excuses do not cut the mustard ! By the way , I also have a name which is posted !

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  • Judy I understand that everyone goes through the crap life throws at you from time to time, noone is immune from that; and I know everyone has their ups and downs, good days and bad days, days where they will not look after themselves as well as they should, hell I am not immune myself, noone is. It is not about being dismissive of those problems in any way shape or form, in my opinion it is about not letting those same things become an excuse for long term poor lifestyle choices. We all go through bad periods in our lives, we don't all turn to drink drugs or comfort eating, do you see what I mean? Like you said, daft excuses don't cut the mustard, it is all about personal responsibility, and that I think is the message we need to start getting out there.

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  • I agree . How does one get the message across ? You only have to look at pictures in the the nursing press to realise that many in our profession have over indulged once or twice too often. Does putting ones own house in order come first ? After all , being told to lose weight by an obese individual will hardly motivate !

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