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Obese patients 'encouraged to eat more' to qualify for surgery

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Senior doctors have branded NHS weight-loss surgery criteria “inconsistent and unethical” after it emerged that some patients were being made to suffer further weight gain in order to be eligible for surgery.

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Under current rules, patients with a BMI of 40 or more have the right to be considered for weight-loss surgery. However, the Royal College of Surgeons has hit out at some NHS trusts that have raised the BMI threshold to 50 or 60 before surgery or drug treatment is considered as an option.

The Royal College of Surgeons has said by raising the criteria, health officials are putting patients’ health and wellbeing at risk through the potential development of life threatening diseases such as diabetes in order to cut costs.

The college said the number of patients being referred for surgery was still extremely low and questioned the short-term financial benefits that are gained from shifting the goalposts for morbidly obese patients.

It has calculated that out of around 240,000 people requiring weight loss surgery, only 4,300 - or 2% - had operations carried out last year, while two thirds of surgeons said they had seen patients who were eligible and in need of weight-loss surgery denied treatment.

Royal College of Surgeons education director, Professor Mike Larvin, said: “In many regions the threshold criteria are being raised to save money in the short term, meaning patients are being denied life saving and cost effective treatments and effectively encouraged to eat more in order to gain a more risky operation further down the line.”

The Department of Health agreed with guidance from NICE which states that “drugs and surgery should always be a last resort”.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • My sister has been battling to lose weight all her adult life. Now she has been told to put on weight so that the surgeon can fit a gastric band. After years of trying to lose weight because of related problems including ulcerative legs, weak ankles and varicous veins she is now encouraged to gain weight in order to lose weight. How mad is this? The surgeon told her that he would be happy to fit a gastric band but could not because of the guidlines imposed.

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