20/Apr/2014 - Last News Update: 15:02

Weight-loss ops 'inconsistent and unethical'

Category: England

Published: 21st Jan 2010 13:30:00

Medical professionals have warned there is an "inconsistent and unethical" approach to weight-loss surgery in the UK.

The Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) speaking at a conference of UK bariatric surgeons today said constraints on NHS funding means there is a postcode lottery denying some from having access to treatment.

Senior surgeons proclaimed weight-loss surgery is "inconsistent, unethical and completely dependent on geographical location", and warned the situation could force some obese sufferers to eat more to qualify for surgery.

There were also concerns that patients were being made to wait until it was too late, qualifying for treatment only once they had developed a life-threatening illness such as diabetes or stroke.

Surgeons have therefore called for consistency and transparency across the NHS so patients are clear about what they are entitled to and doctors can treat all patients equally.

Mr Alberic Fiennes, president-elect of the British Obesity and Metabolic Surgical Society (BOMSS), said: "We recognise the difficulties faced in dealing with a 'new' disease of epidemic proportions but to limit surgery to the most severely obese is unfair and short-sighted and against basic professional ethics.

"It is also contrary to strategies that are standard for diseases that overwhelm resources."

According to the NHS Constitution published in 2009 morbidly obese patients, i.e. those with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 40 or more, have a legal right to be properly assessed for weight loss surgery under guidelines set out by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).

However, the RCS says it has learned that while some Primary Care Trusts adhere to the guidelines, others are raising the bar so that only the most extremely ill patients with a BMI of 50 or 60 are being referred for surgery.

Surgeons added that around one million people meet NICE criteria with around 240,000 wanting surgery; yet only 4,300 NHS weight-loss operations were carried out last year.

Obesity associated healthcare costs the NHS an estimated £7.2 billion a year.

Surgeons say there is incontestable evidence that surgery is both cost-effective - with surgery costs recouped within three years as obesity associated costs are eliminated - and the only proven successful method of treating the morbidly obese.

As a consequence of today's report the RCS is calling for the Department of Health to "invest in a long term strategy to ensure that all patients have equal access to treatment delivered by experienced multi-disciplinary teams working out of properly equipped centres that can offer a full specialist assessment, an appropriate treatment and provide safe long-term follow up and emergency re-admission".

RCS director of education Professor Mike Larvin added: "NICE guidelines are meant to signal the end of postcode lotteries, yet local commissioning groups are choosing not to deliver on obesity surgery.

"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."

UK Wired External Link Show Citation

Latest News

Harvard Citation

UK Wired, 2010. Weight-loss ops 'inconsistent and unethical' [Online] (Updated 21st Jan 2010)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/12368/Weight-loss-ops-inconsistent-and-unethical [Accessed 20th Apr 2014]

News In Other Categories

  • Chinese GP: Daniel Ricciardo plays down Sebastian Vettel dispute

    Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo moved to defuse a potential dispute with team-mate Sebastian Vettel over team orders at the Chinese Grand Prix.
  • All garden centres 'should be open on Easter Sunday'

    Ministers are being urged to end restrictions that prevent many garden centres in England and Wales from opening on Easter Sunday.
  • Bristol Academy extends reach overseas with first foreign students

    With the doors to its brand new £1million training centre officially open, one of the UK's leading apprentice training providers, Bristol based S&B Automotive Academy, is showcasing its world-class facilities by launching a series of foreign student exchanges for the first time in its 41-year history. To get a flavour of what life is like as an apprentice in the UK, the Academy hosted 16 apprentice engineers and bus drivers from the G9 Automotive College in Hamburg, Germany, as part of a Europe-wide vocational training initiative called the ‘Leonardo Programme’ with support from the European Social Fund. In a reciprocal arrangement, S&B will be sending nine apprentices to Germany during February 2012 so that they can get an appreciation of life in the automotive industry on the Continent. A further three German exchange groups are being planned for next year. Designed to assist the development of vocational skills and training across Europe, including work placements for trainees, the Leonardo Programme has a budget of €1.75bn, which is helping to encourage UK organisations to work with their counterparts abroad. In what is expected to be another challenging year for employers in the UK automotive sector, S&B’s Chief Executive, Jon Winter, claims that the exchange initiative will bring many benefits to the Academy and its apprentices: “In a world of global automotive brands, it’s important for our learners to understand the international context of the industry they have chosen to make their career. This new exchange programme will enable apprentices and Academy staff alike to achieve a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the automotive arena in Europe. With the Academy’s influence also extending to the USA and Asia, there’s every possibility that this initiative could move further afield in the future.” Continued Winter: “The need for skilled technicians across the world is on the increase and we actively encourage our apprentices to look at broader horizons during their training. Many of them have already learned the phrase ‘Vorsprung durch Gelehrtheit’, quite simply, ‘Advancement through learning.” In the 2010/11 academic year, S&B doubled the number of successful Apprenticeships over the previous year with some 350 apprentices graduating from the Academy. At the same time, achievement levels reached an all-time high with an overall success rate of 85%. For those learners on the Advanced Apprenticeship three-year programme, success rates were even higher, at over 98%. PHOTO CAPTION: As part of their exchange visit, S&B Automotive Academy arranged for the German apprentices to visit Hampshire bus operator, Bluestar, at its Barton Park depot. The students are pictured with S&B’s Andy West (3rd right) and Steve Prewett, Bluestar’s Area Engineering Manager (2nd right). Ends http://www.sandbaa.com
  • Why big buttocks can be bad for your health

    The demand for bigger buttocks in Venezuela means some women will even have banned injections to achieve them, putting their health at risk.
  • Hacking the instrument of the future in Boston

    Stick a bunch of people in a room with pizza, caffeine and a whole load of kit, wait 24 hours and something interesting emerges.
  • Two men injured in tyre explosion

    Two men are in hospital after an accident at a garage in Aberdeenshire.