Weight Loss Surgery – New NICE Guidelines

The UK health watchdog NICE has proposed an increase in the availability of  weight loss surgery (also known as bariatric surgery, such as gastric bands, and gastric bypass) for people with type 2 diabetes.

Currently you need to have a BMI of over 40 (or a BMI of over 35 coupled with another health condition such as diabetes) in order to qualify for bariatric surgery. The proposal is to lower the threshold to a BMI of 30 if you have type 2 diabetes. This would potentially increase the number of people receiving weight loss  surgery on the NHS from 8,000 a year to 30,000 a year.

Treating type 2 diabetes currently costs 10% of the NHS budget.

Dr Phillip Lee (Conservative MP for Bracknell) argues that the NHS should not pay for conditions caused by poor lifestyle choices.

Simon O’Neill, Diabetes UK’s director of health intelligence said: “Any surgery carries serious risks…and should only be a last resort after serious weight-loss attempts have failed.”

The chief exec of Diabetes UK, Barbara Young, said: “Give me the £5K you would spend on an op and put it into a weight reduction programme earlier on.”

Roger Goss of Patient Concern said: “Obese people should be encouraged to eat less and take more exercise, rather than having this expensive treatment paid for.”

As a personal trainer in London, I’ve had several clients in the past who have had weight loss surgery before they approached me. They report complications with their surgery, the inability to eat properly after the surgery, the lack of energy resulting from not being able to eat enough to fuel an intensive workout, and the problems of loose skin hanging round the body after the sudden and drastic weight loss which occurs after surgery.

I think weight loss surgery is plain wrong. The only healthy way to lose excess weight is healthy eating and regular exercise.  Resources should be diverted from weight loss surgery and put into intensive support for people with obesity and type 2 diabetes, in the form of healthy eating advice and monitoring, and exercise advice.

Dominic Londesborough is a personal trainer in London