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York Hospital spends £1m on weight loss ops
York Hospital has spent almost £1 million over two years on gastric surgery to help morbidly obese people lose weight.
Ninety-one people from the York and North Yorkshire area had weight loss surgery at the hospital in 2010/11 and 89 people in 2011/12 at a cost of £958,702 to the NHS.
The number of bariatric operations – which reduce the size of the stomach or bypasses it to mean patients consume fewer calories – has become far more prevalent in recent years, rising from 42 patients undergoing surgery in 2008/09 by 145 per cent to 103 people in 2009/10.
Patients with a body mass index of 40 or above must have tried diet and exercise, but have failed to achieve or maintain a beneficial level of weight loss for at least six months to be eligible for treatment.
A York Hospital spokesman said: “The decision to recommend surgery is not taken lightly. Patients who are referred to us for this type of surgery are seen by a wide-ranging team including dieticians, specialists nurses, anaesthetists and surgeons, and a great deal of time is invested in preparing patients for their surgery and making them aware of the risks involved.
“Successful surgery, where patients have made and maintained the necessary changes to their lifestyle, can improve people’s overall health and avoid or reduce complications later in life as a result of remaining significantly overweight.”
The operation is known to be risky. In 2009, 30-year-old York mum Kerry Greaves, of Tang Hall, died from problems following gastric bypass surgery. She had the operation after becoming worried that her size may lead to her daughter being teased.
Her mother, Anne, has warned people to think carefully about the surgery. She said: “Kerry knew there were risks, but it’s not until they go into theatre or afterwards they know if there’s going to be any problems.
“I would say people should think twice. I think people need to know there is a lot of risk with the operation.”
A greater prevalence of weight loss surgery at York Hospital echoes national patterns – figures released by the NHS Information Centre earlier this year showed there had been a 30-fold increase in bariatric surgeries in a decade – up from 261 in 2000-01 to 8,087 in 2010-11.
Considering the argument that weight loss surgery is a quick but expensive fix for the NHS, Tam Fry, a spokesman for the National Obesity Forum, argued the surgery is known to be cost-effective in the long-term as the operation lowers the risk of associated health problems such as diabetes, cardiovascular problems, hypertension and stroke.
He said: “The number of gastric band operations is rising considerably and will continue to rise for the next ten years. The obesity problem we have at the moment is that the fat people are getting fatter... it’s for those people these operations are a necessity.
“The gastric band or any other of the operations which reduce the weight of the individual dramatically has a positive effect on the other comorbidities.
“In the long-term, the NHS will not be paying so much money.”
‘I’d been on diet for 40 years’
SALLY Cunningham said she had been on a diet for 40 years before finally having the gastric bypass operation at York Hospital which changed her life.
Mrs Cunningham, 47, had tried countless diets including the Rosemary Conley diet plans, the Cambridge Diet and slimming clubs. But despite her efforts, she had reached dress size 28 to 30 before going ahead with the operation in December last year.
Since the surgery – which means she can now only eat very small portions – she has already lost six-and-a-half stone and hopes to lose another six to reach her target dress size 14.
Mrs Cunningham, who lives in Knaresborough, said she feels the operation has given her a new optimism about the future and has allowed her to live life to the full. She said she can live an active life and can now go to the theatre and cinema without worrying whether the chair will be too small, can go out with her daughter without regularly having to sit down and can easily find clothes to fit.
She said: “I was probably heading for, if not a heart attack, certainly knee replacements. I’m much more useful to everybody now.
“It’s life changing, I have got a zest for life. Everything is so much better. I know some people get very depressed about their weight, but this changes their lives.”