Essex: Spending on obesity surgery soars

SPENDING on surgery for obese people in north-east Essex has more than doubled in the last two years, new figures have revealed.

Data obtained by the EADT following a Freedom of Information (FoI) request show 34 patients were given bariatric surgery in the nine months to December last year.

The stomach-reducing procedures, for people who are dangerously obese, cost the taxpayer �378,624 in 2010/11, compared with the previous year’s bill of �181,120 for 20 operations.

Numbers for North East Essex PCT, which covers Colchester and Tendring, compare badly with its mid-Essex counterpart, who had 17 cases in 2010/11.

Chris French, assistant director of public health at North East Essex PCT, said obesity-related illnesses will cost the trust �47m in 2010-11.

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He added: “Obesity is a massive challenge - it’s one of those behaviours that’s very difficult to change.

“Calories are cheap these days, you can buy lots of fast food and compared to the cost of food the cost of a calorie can be fairly cheap.

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“It’s obviously an expensive procedure so we encourage people to live a healthy lifestyle and lose weight on their own.

“In terms of weight loss it’s successful, but it’s not successful for everyone. It does not suit everyone, you still need that discipline to change, it’s not a magic pill, you still need to adhere to a strict diet.”

The latest figures, released by East of England Specialised Commissioning Group (EESCG), come just months after more bad news about obesity in north-east Essex. They showed the number of obese people ballooned by more than 6,000 in just three years, from 22,419 in March 2007 to 28,875 in March 2010.

Dr Matthew Thalanany, director of public health at EESCG, said: “Providing the best treatment possible for people with morbid obesity is a key aim for the East of England Specialised Commissioning Group.

“In the last two years we have developed a consistent approach across the whole of the region and improved access to surgery.

“We are continuing to work closely with Primary Care Trusts to further develop prevention services so that fewer patients ever reach the stage of requiring a surgical intervention.

“Our criteria states that patients must have undergone a programme of intensive obesity management for at least six months and have tried all other appropriate non-surgical measures (where available) before they are considered for surgery.

“I would urge people with excess weight problems to go through weight management programmes locally, with the help of their GPs and other services.

“Surgery must always be a last resort as the procedures are incredibly invasive and are associated with very high risks.”

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