Give weight-loss surgery to obese patients on NHS to curb diabetes, says Nice

Current rules mean that weight-loss surgery on the NHS is only given to patients who are classed as 'morbidly obese'

Hundreds of thousands of sufferers of type 2 diabetes could be offered weight-loss surgery on the NHS, according to new draft medical guidance.

The proposed guidelines from National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (Nice) suggest that obese people suffering from the increasingly common condition should be considered for bariatric surgery, including having a gastric band fitted or a more invasive gastric bypass, where the digestive system is re-routed past most of the stomach.

Current rules mean that weight-loss surgery on the NHS is only given to patients who are classed as “morbidly obese”, which means they have a body mass index of more than 40. It also may be offered to patients with a BMI of more than 35 but who also have another serious health condition, such as type 2 diabetes.

However, Nice is now suggesting that people with a BMI score of 30 to 35 should be considered for an assessment for weight-loss operations on the NHS if they have been diagnosed within the last 10 years.

The proposal comes after data from the National Diabetes Audit showed that up to 71 per cent of type 2 diabetes suffers had been diagnosed within the last ten years. And around half of those with the condition have got a BMI of over 30. This could mean as many as 800,000 people could be considered for this type of surgery on the NHS.

Video: Weight loss operation 'the best solution'

“Obesity rates have nearly doubled over the last 10 years and continue to rise, making obesity and overweight a major issue for the health service in the UK,” said Professor Mark Baker, director of the Centre for Clinical Practice at Nice. “Updated evidence suggests people who are obese and have been recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes may benefit from weight loss surgery.

”More than half of people who undergo surgery have more control over their diabetes following surgery and are less likely to have diabetes related illness; in some cases surgery can even reverse the diagnosis.“

Simon O'Neill, director of health intelligence at the charity Diabetes UK, said: "Although studies have shown that bariatric surgery can help with weight loss and have a positive effect on blood glucose levels, it must be remembered that any surgery carries serious risks. Bariatric surgery should only be considered as a last resort if serious attempts to lose weight have been unsuccessful and if the person is obese.

“Bariatric surgery can lead to dramatic weight loss, which in turn may result in a reduction in people taking their type 2 diabetes medication and even in some people needing no medication at all. This does not mean, however, that type 2 diabetes has been cured.”

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