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Weight-loss surgery “could save economy millions”

8 September 2010

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Leading surgeons have warned that failing to offer weight-loss surgery to obese patients could cost the economy millions every year.

Surgery could help lower the rising costs of incapacity benefit, unemployment, prescriptions and housing benefits, experts said.

The NHS faces a cost of £4.3bn every year from obesity and related illnesses, while the wider economy in England must pay millions more.

And with thousands of patients not getting weight-loss surgery, the mounting costs are increasing, according to the Royal College of Surgeons, National Obesity Forum and health firms Allergan and Covidien report.

NHS trusts are not following guidelines set down by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), which say people with a body mass index (BMI) over 40, or between 35 and 40 if they also have a condition such as diabetes or high blood pressure, are eligible for surgery.

Experts calculated that if 5% of eligible patients were given weight-loss surgery, the gain to the economy within three years would be £382m.

If 25% were granted surgery, the gain within three years would be £1.3bn.

The government could also expect savings in benefit payments of £35 million to £150m, as people head back to work, the study said.

If NICE guidance was followed, direct NHS cost savings would be around £56m a year.

Copyright © Press Association 2010

Royal College of Surgeons

Should more patients be given weight-loss surgery? Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

“Subject to agreeing to repay the cost if they fail to make real efforts to get back to work or eat themselves into same state again. The assertions of savings will only apply if these people do get back to work, I wonder how many are de-skilled because of absences attributted to obesity and linked illness. Costs to be recouped via benefit sytem for those as above
who continue on benefits post surgery” – Name and address withheld

“No, the effort should be put into supporting people into lifestyle changes, weight-loss surgery gives the message ‘eat until almost dead then have surgery and still eat but lose weight'” – Christine Stacey, London

“I believe that gastric banding is not cost effective. The patient has to return to the outpatients to have their band adjusted every two weeks. Patients who are diabetic, hypertensive or suffering from severe osteoarthritis, due to obesity, should be told that sleeve gastrectomy is the only permanent method to reduce weight for the rest of their lives. It reduces the size of their stomach permanently, it requires 48 hours in hospital, it is performed laproscopically. For the first four weeks fluids only, then purée food, eventually eating a normal smaller diet. Follow-up in six weeks, excellent outcomes. Very cost effective” – Carl Curtis, Southwark

“This must be one of the most cost-effective treatments the NHS can deliver. A no-brainer as my kids would say” – Marie, Lancs