More obese patients to get NHS weight-loss surgery

Jul 11, 2014

NHS told to spend more on operations to tackle the diabetes epidemic – but can it afford the cost?

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The NHS should offer more weight-loss surgery to obese patients in order to make future savings and tackle the rise of diabetes, new draft guidelines have suggested.

The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (Nice) has said the threshold for considering weight loss surgery should be lowered to include people with recently diagnosed type-2 diabetes who have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 and above.

Previously, only people considered to be 'morbidly obese', with a BMI of 35 and above, would have been considered for such surgery, the BBC reports.

By lowering the threshold, up to 850,000 more people could be eligible for so-called bariatric surgery, which includes a gastric bypass or gastric band.

The UK is currently facing a "diabetes epidemic", with type-2 diabetes often linked to obesity, an unhealthy diet and an inactive lifestyle.

Over 25 per cent of adults in the UK are obese and complications from the condition cost the NHS £5.1 billion every year, more than five per cent of its annual budget.

Research suggests that such operations significantly improve the symptoms in up to 60 per cent of all patients.

However, with surgery costing up to £15,000, the guidelines are proving to be highly contentious among healthcare workers.

There are concerns that while savings may be made in the future, the NHS is facing a serious budget crisis now and cannot afford the extra up-front costs.

Tam Fry from the National Obesity Forum said there is a "mismatch" between Nice's recommendations and what the NHS can actually afford.

"The problem is the health service is going to say, 'No we're out of money, you can't have it', and that's going to create great friction," he said.

Weight-loss surgery should be considered only "as a last resort if serious attempts to lose weight have been unsuccessful", said Simon O'Neill from Diabetes UK.

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