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Obesity hospital admissions up 30%

The number of hospital admissions for obesity has risen more than 30% while the number of gastric band procedures has soared by 70%, figures have shown.

There were 10,571 NHS hospital admissions in 2009/10 where the main reason for treatment was that the person was obese.

The figure is more than 10 times the number in 1999/00 (979) and more than 30% higher than in 2008/09 (7,988).

Today's report, from the NHS Information Centre, also revealed soaring numbers undergoing operations to help them lose weight and tens of thousands more people taking prescribed weight-loss pills.

In 2009/10, the number of bariatric surgery procedures in England reached 7,214, with women accounting for 80% of the total.

This is up 70% on the figure for 2008/09 of just over 4,200.

Of the most recent procedures, 1,444 were for maintenance of an existing gastric band and the operation was most common in the East Midlands and London.

In 2009, the number of prescription items dispensed for the treatment of obesity was 1.45 million - more than 11 times the number in 1999 (127,000) and up on the 1.28 million in 2008.

However, there are signs that obesity levels among adults may be stabilising, although it will take a few more years to see if this is a genuine downward trend.

Between 2008 and 2009, the percentage of obese men fell from 24% to 22% while the proportion of obese women fell from 25% to 24%.

Another 44% of men and 33% of women were regarded as overweight, according to the report.

Some 38% of adults had a too-high waist measurement, compared with 23% in 1993. A raised waist circumference is over 35in (88cm) for women and more than 40in (102cm) for men.

This pushes up the risks of health problems, including heart disease and diabetes.

Tim Straughan, chief executive of the NHS Information Centre, said: "This report shows the number of hospital admissions, procedures and prescriptions related to obesity are continuing to increase in England.

"Our hospital data shows hospital admissions in the last financial year topped 10,000 for the first time while bariatric procedures passed 7,000.

"This report brings together different strands of information to show how obesity impacts upon our society, both in the community and in our hospitals, and gives health professionals and policy makers a clearer picture of how this affects the health service and how it is changing over time."

Tam Fry, from the National Obesity Forum, said: "This is the second year in succession that rates have risen by 30% and I would not be surprised if the figures for 2011/12 were similar.

"They will prove to those who wish to dismiss the severity of the obesity crisis just how bad it is, and the rise in bariatric surgery is particularly revealing.

"The present government cannot be held to account for obesity as it exists today but it must held to account if its policies are not better-focused to tackle it from now on."