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.
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.”