NHS spends £7m on Scots weight loss surgery

SCOTLAND’S health boards have shelled out at least £7 million giving more than 1000 morbidly obese people weight loss surgery in just five years, according to new figures revealed today.
An increasing number of patients need medical intervention. Picture: CompAn increasing number of patients need medical intervention. Picture: Comp
An increasing number of patients need medical intervention. Picture: Comp

Scotland’s 14 health boards have been deluged by an increasing number of patients - a total of 1070 in the last five years - requiring surgical intervention to help them lose weight at a massive cost to taxpayers.

The number of surgeries, such as gastric bypasses, gastric bands and gastric sleeves, carried out has rocketed by almost 25 percent in the last five years - from 183 in 2009/10 to 224 last year.

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The recorded cost of the operations is £6,879,487 - but because several health boards don’t record the cost of the procedures it is thought that at more that £10,000 per operation the true cost is more than £11,000,000.

Obesity campaigners said they feared the figures would “escalate dramatically” in coming years.

According to figures released under Freedom of Information legislation, NHS Lothian carried out the most weight loss surgeries in the last five years - a total of 252, costing £3,185,351.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde carried out 249, while NHS Tayside did 102 bariatric surgeries.

Meanwhile, NHS Tayside did not offer the operations in 2009/10 - and the following year performed just five at a cost of £23,010.

But in the last three years they performed a total of 97, costing the health board £1,229,826.

NHS Ayrshire and Arran, NHS Fife, NHS Forth Valley and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said they did not record the costs of the surgeries in their budget.

However, NHS Borders, NHS Grampian, NHS Highland, NHS Lanarkshire, NHS Lothian, NHS Shetland and NHS Tayside said they had spent a total of £6,879,487 on bariatric surgery in the last five years.

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That works out at an average of £10,411 per surgery - meaning the total cost to the Scottish NHS, for 850 surgeries in that same period, could be as much as £8.9 million.

A spokesman for NHS Borders said: “In 2011 NHS Borders set up a Specialist Weight Management Service. All Borders patients are in the first instance referred to this service. Patients are assessed and supported to lose weight.

“The aim of the Weight Management Service is to eliminate the need for surgery by providing education and support to change lifestyles and maintain a healthy weight in the long term.

“Those patients who meet the criteria for bariatric surgery are referred to specialist providers of bariatric surgery as NHS Borders does not carry out this type of surgery.”

NHS Dumfries and Galloway said they do not carry out bariatric surgery in their area.

Tam Fry, spokesman for the National Obesity Forum, said: “I am not surprised at the figures and am fearful that they will escalate dramatically in the years ahead.

“NICE, the National Institute for Health Care Excellence, has given the green light for Health Boards to consider surgery for thousands more people with badly controlled diabetes Type 2.

“The good news behind this decision is that the surgery is actually cost-saving to the NHS in the long-term because these patients won’t incur even greater costs for other diseases triggered by their obesity.

“The shaming news is that the majority of these diseases are largely preventable “.