YES! Says the Royal College of Surgeons. After studying the UK’s first large-scale study on the impact of weight-loss surgery, it reports a large reduction in type 2 diabetes and other health problems and could, in part, and moreover cost-effectively, deal with Britain’s obesity crisis.
The report, by The National Bariatric Surgery Registry said type 2 diabetes fell by 50% and on average patients lost nearly 60% of their excess weight a year after surgery (based on 1421 operations).
Ministers take a different view and say it is up to the local NHS to provide weight management services.
The report says the world has been engulfed by a pandemic of obesity. In the UK, it says there are about one million people who could benefit from bariatric surgery. The authors argue that by reducing the associated costs of obesity, such as treatment for diabetes, bariatric surgery offers ‘a real bargain for the health economy and for wider society’.
Alberic Fiennes, Chairman of NBS, said the treatment should be made more widely available on the NHS. ‘An approach that limits treatment to a fraction of those who would benefit is one in which the NHS will rue in years to come as these patients become an unsustainable burden on the health service’ he said. ‘Preventative strategy alone has proved ineffective; there are at least two generations of morbidly obese patients who are now presenting with diabetes, stroke, heart disease and cancer for whom preventative measures are utterly irrelevant’. Mr Fiennes went on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today programme and added that ‘obesity is a devastating, disabling and life-shortening disease.’
When asked about the morality of the surgery, he said ‘There is no question people become overweight because they eat more food than they need. Just in the same way people develop coronary heart disease because they didn’t do two 10-mile runs a day and ate some bacon sandwiches in an earlier life, and yet we treat them. I think it is very invidious to set the disease of one person against another. What we have to recognise is this is a new disease and as the world changes new diseases appear.’
John Black the President of the Royal College of Surgeons said the problem was not going to ‘miraculously disappear’ and called on the government to develop a long-term plan.
Finally, David Stout, deputy chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents bodies such as foundation hospitals, primary care trusts and doctors’ groups, said it was not just a question of cost. ‘It’s about how we want to operate in this country, in terms of where we invest our resources and how we expect people to live. We see surgery as one of the options we offer but prevention is better than cure.’
Do you think the NHS should pay for these procedures?