‘Postcode lottery’ denies patients access to treatment despite obesity crisis, surgeons warn


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Weight-loss programmes are being cut in some areas of England despite the growing obesity crisis, the Royal College of Surgeons has warned.

The organisation said its members have raised concerns that intensive weight management services are not being commissioned in some parts of the country.

Surgeons are warning that the issue is becoming a “big problem” after noticing a lack of provision in some areas.

Among the programmes being closed are the Lightening Up Programme in north Tyneside, which will lose its funding from April.

The college said a “postcode lottery” is denying some obese patients access to “vital treatment”, because the programmes are a prerequisite to surgery. The NHS recommends that obese patients try all non-invasive treatment options before surgery.

Problems with commissioning weight management services have led to a fall in bariatric procedures, the college said, citing recent NHS statistics which show a 10 per cent fall between April 2012 and March last year.

“To hear that a postcode lottery is emerging in UK weight management provision is deeply worrying,” said Professor Norman Williams, the RCS president. “The fact that access to surgery is blocked because of this means the NHS is simply storing up problems for later and compromising patient care.

“We hope to work with clinical commissioning groups to reduce this sort of variation and drive up standards of patient care across the UK.”

Richard Welbourn, president of the British Obesity and Metabolic Surgery Society, said: “It is concerning that patients are being denied access to treatment due to weight assessment and management clinics not being commissioned.

“The benefits of bariatric surgery are well-known. It leads to greater body weight loss and higher remission rates of type 2 diabetes than non-surgical treatment.

“Poor access to bariatric surgery therefore places some patients at continuing health risk. In the long run this will end up costing the NHS more.”