Bariatric surgery

Obesity epidemic – end the postcode lottery

It’s no secret that obesity levels are still on the rise and a solution is drastically needed.

LighterLife, a weight loss company that has been passionately campaigning for smarter solutions to the obesity crisis for over 25 years, carried out Freedom of Information requests to 225 CCGs and health boards in the UK to find out what help they were providing the obese.

Their research reveals that the services available are grossly under resourced and too few and far between – in fact 19 per cent of CCGs and Health Boards aren’t helping the obese at all. Some only considered helping those suffering from complex medical issues such as diabetes.

In a new documentary out this week Professor Rachel Batterham explored whether or not there was a ‘fat prejudice’ against obese patients within parts of the NHS, stopping them from accessing surgery. The reality is that support for the obese is not readily available for all that need it.

With obesity costing the NHS £5.1bn a year, and the cost expected to rise to £10-12bn by 2030, the NHS cannot afford to operate on everyone who qualifies for surgery, so equally as effective and non-invasive solutions should not be discounted.

LighterLife Medical Director Dr Matt Capehorn, who also runs an NHS centre for the management of weight problems, explains:

“Many people think that bariatric surgery is a quick fix – they think it is guaranteed to make them lose weight.  This is not the case, and many people who have weight loss surgery either do very badly, or end up putting any weight lost back on and more, mainly because they have not addressed the underlying reasons why they overate in the first place. Nothing about the surgery physically stops you eating, and weight loss requires lifestyle change, as well as the reduced calorie intake, to have lasting results.”

“Very low calorie diets are scientifically proven to be equally as effective at enabling people to lose weight at a similar rate to bariatric surgery – but without the risks”.

“Worryingly the Freedom of Information request, carried out by LighterLife, reveals that 21 areas in the UK used centres within, or adjacent to, bariatric units – making them a conveyor belt towards surgery, rather than a real bid to help the obese lose weight by other means”.

“I can’t emphasise enough how vital it is for people to understand – and overcome – the reasons for the weight gain in the first place, using techniques like Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT). Without this, most will slip back into their old ways and put all the weight back on regardless of the method they use to lose weight”.

Whilst bariatric surgery has been proven to be an effective solution for obesity, it is not suitable, nor does it work, for everyone. Juliet Wright, from Cheshire, had bariatric surgery in 2012. By 2015 she weighed just under 23st, she explains:

“I joined various diet clubs over the years but for every stone I lost, I would end up putting it all on again – plus half. So in 2012 I paid to have bariatric surgery, thinking it was the solution I was looking for. It wasn’t.”

“Before I had surgery I had a session with a psychologist, but it wasn’t long enough and didn’t help me get to the root cause of my overeating. I was warned that having surgery was not an answer on its own, and that I would have to manage my eating afterwards. Unfortunately the support post-surgery wasn’t provided so I regained. If I’d have had CBT in a group setting, that reinforced the techniques and built on them each week, combined with the right nutritional support, it may have worked.”

“Nobody explained that there was another option available – a dedicated centre with experts in weight loss, talking therapies and exercise. People need to be made aware that there are other solutions available, and given the support to achieve long term weight management.”

Read Juliet’s full story to find out more on how CBT has helped her lose weight.