Weight-loss surgery should be available on NHS, says East Yorkshire hospitals boss
FAT people should be able to undergo weight-loss surgery on the NHS, according to the boss of the region's main hospitals.
Phil Morley has accused NHS Hull and NHS East Riding of Yorkshire, the region's primary care trusts (PCT), of being "fatist".
He said the cost of weight-loss surgery is cheaper than the long-term costs incurred to help obese patients in the future.
The surgery is not routinely funded on the NHS and many people are asked to try weight-management programmes first.
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To be placed on the waiting list, patients need to be recommended for surgery by a consultant or GP, as well as the PCT's exceptional treatments panel.
Mr Morley, chief executive of Hull And East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs Hull Royal Infirmary and Castle Hill Hospital, said: "We have one of the biggest problems in terms of obesity in England and this is value for money.
"If you consider the cost of it, you could get that back in two years. It benefits patients.
"It's almost a fatist approach. You can't be sexist and ageist but you can be fatist."
The trust said 106 patients from outside East Yorkshire were referred for weight-loss surgery at the trust from April last year to March this year.
By contrast, just 16 patients from Hull have been granted surgery since NHS Hull began to review its waiting list and refer some people to weight management programmes in April 2009.
Meanwhile in the East Riding, 71 patients have been allowed the surgery since its review in June 2010.
Mr Morley said: "All the evidence shows it's value for money.
"It solves diabetes and it solves social problems."
Almost 54,000 people in Hull and almost 70,000 people in the East Riding are classed as obese.
Primary care officials suggest people should try other options, such as fitness programmes and diet schemes before surgery is considered, as the procedures are risky and costly.
This includes NHS Hull's Fit Fans scheme, which requires people to join a 12-week structured programme, and Why Weight? which offers nutritional advice and teaches cooking skills.
In the East Riding, the Live Well weight management service is an option for those denied surgery on the NHS, as well as "exercise on referral" which offers psychological support and focuses on exercise and nutrition.
But Mr Morley said these schemes do not always work.
He said: "All it does is defer the problem, or they drop out of it, because they can't stay on the programme for whatever reason.
"They struggle with their social problems.
"My old trust in Cheshire used to refer people to Hull."
Health officials said each weight-loss – bariatric – procedure costs the NHS between £8,000 and £10,000.
In comparison, health officials said it costs £600 per person to complete Fit Fans and £600 per person for Live Well, with positive results achieved in both.
Dr Wendy Richardson, director of public health for Hull, who spoke on behalf of both PCTs, said: "Requests for bariatric surgery are considered on a case-by-case basis and both NHS Hull and NHS East Riding of Yorkshire fund the procedure but only where there is a proven clinical need and/or there are special circumstances which mean the patient is unable to lose weight in another way.
"Bariatric surgery is just one approach to tackling the problem of obesity.
"We would expect to see GPs referring patients to programmes like the East Riding's Live Well and Hull's Fit Fans programme in the first instance in order to promote self-responsibility and the development of a long-lasting, more positive attitude to food and exercise for patients."