Thousands of people need stomach-shrinking surgery to tackle obesity crisis, doctors warn

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Top surgeons say the UK needs to carry out thousands more stomach-shrinking operations to stop obesity bankrupting the NHS.

Health bosses are dragging their heels with rolling out the relatively inexpensive surgery, meaning the UK lags behind other European countries in tackling obesity, the doctors said at a conference in London.

Such operations shrink patients’ appetites so they eat less and often lead to dramatic weight loss over a short period of time.

“The UK data is overwhelming – surgery makes a difference to people’s health and we want commissioners to acknowledge this and act accordingly,” said Marco Adamo in comments reported by the Guardian.

The consultant surgeon at University College Hospital and the chair of the National Bariatric Surgery Register added: “Severe and complex obesity is a serious, lifelong condition associated with many major medical conditions, the cost of which threatens to bankrupt the NHS.”

Surgery typically costs between £6,000 and £7,000, far less than other operations that treat conditions which can later develop as a product of obesity.

Professor Francesco Rubino, the chair of metabolic and bariatric surgery at King’s College London, said increasingly he believed it was stigma not cost that was holding things back, the Guardian reported.

“Bariatric surgery is one of the most cost-effective interventions we have in modern medicine,” he said.

He added: “It is not true that all patients who are obese are basically overeating.

“I would also submit that even if it were all about overeating – and I don’t believe it is the case – we don’t forgive obese patients for their poor lifestyle choices although we forgive those, such as smoking, that lead to cancer and transplant surgery.”

According to the UN, the UK has the highest level of obesity in Western Europe with almost one in four adults classed as obese.

On current estimates, half of the UK population will be overweight by 2050. 

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