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Over Two Million People May Be Eligible For Weight Loss Surgery PDF Print Email


According to new research just published by an open access companion publication to the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine two million people in England could be eligible for weight loss surgery.


The number is much more than previously thought and highlights the growing seriousness of the situation.  It was the first study to assess the number of people in the country who may be eligible for bariatric surgery and researchers from Imperial College London concluded that the people meeting the criteria were more likely to be women who are retired, have lower educational qualifications and lower socioeconomic status.


Bariatric surgery – which is a surgical procedure obese people can undergo to reduce the size of their stomach - can greatly decrease the likelihood of death from obesity and related diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.


Some of the recent data shows how surgery rates have increased each year in England but the amount of operations still fall significantly below the level needed to help all those who could potentially benefit from the surgery.


Dr Sonia Saxena of Imperial College London said: "Despite clear guidelines outlining who can undergo such surgery with the NHS, and evidence that these procedures are cost-effective in the long run, less than one per cent of those eligible have weight loss surgery each year. This raises questions about why more procedures are not currently being carried out."


Those who conducted the research highlighted a number of factors that could help explain the low surgery rates. "At the patient level, this study could be consistent with an inverse care law whereby those most in need of bariatric surgery are in socioeconomic groups who tend to make less use of healthcare services" said Dr Saxena. "Another barrier might be patient awareness of bariatric surgery and commitment to complete lifestyle intervention programmes prior to surgery." It has been reported recently that in some areas of the country where weight loss programmes may be a prerequisite to the operation there have been funding cuts leading to decommissioning.


More investment in providing the service may be required as obesity rates continue to rise. In conclusion Dr Saxena says: "Since those eligible are more likely to be of a lower social class and have lower qualifications, resources would need careful allocation to ensure equitable access on the basis of need."


If you are concerned about your weight, or know anyone that is, you should make an appointment with your doctor.  Your local pharmacy is also a good place to start.  They will offer trustworthy, free advice and normally have a private consultation room.  They have a range of good weight loss programmes and stock a number of products and can also help in further signposting to get the correct help needed.  Many of the programmes and help available are free.