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The BBC's Carole Jones
"This is causing related problems such as heart disease and diabetes"
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Martin Redmond, Health Board for Scotland
"One person who co-ordinates the work can make a difference"
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Tuesday, 5 December, 2000, 09:35 GMT
NHS 'faces 16bn obesity bill'
Linda Early
Linda Early: Receives 24-hour care
The National Health Service faces costs of up to 16bn over the next decade as a result of increasing obesity and related illnesses, according to research.

Academics at St Andrews University said people in Britain are becoming fatter and the knock-on health problems will put increasing strain on NHS budgets.

Health economist Mehran Zabihollah, who compiled data as part of the study, told BBC Frontline Scotland: "We have estimated the cost to be between 14bn and 16bn.

"As a nation we're going to become more obese, and we're going to present more and more problems such as diabetes, and that means that the NHS will have to deal with ever more increasing numbers of ill people...with a limited budget."

Nurses
Many obese people turn to the health service for help
The programme, to be broadcast on Tuesday, features housebound 40-year-old Glasgow woman Linda Early, who weighs 40 stone.

She has no family to look after her and receives 24-hour care in her home at a cost of 900 a week.

She said her weight problems were partly genetic. Her health problems include angina, bed sores and high blood pressure.

She said she had asked health authorities for NHS support for the past 10 years.

To deal with her weight problems, she now wants health authorities to get her treatment at the private Priory Clinic which specialises in food addiction.

She also wants to try surgery.

'Waste of space'

She said: "Fat people are always going to be something to laugh at.

"Some people take it more seriously but (others) generally believe that fat people are a total waste of space, and a total drain on all services and that they don't deserve any sort of help.

"I don't believe that. I believe that I'm entitled to try and get some form of life back.

Burger
Some people cannot stop eating
"To get back on my feet again I feel that I need constant care in a full-time facility, and it wasn't available to me.

"But, I genuinely feel that for the last 10 years my situation has been ignored by the (Greater Glasgow) health board, social services, by everybody concerned really."

Jill Smith, 55, a Swansea grandmother, said she too felt abandoned by the NHS and spent 5,000 on a private operation having her stomach stapled.

Describing herself as a compulsive eater, she admitted she began to fear for her future.

She said: "Firstly, my joints were giving way.

Surgery option

"My knee joints are not very good at all. I also felt that when I was about 51 or 52 that I wouldn't actually see 60, or if I did would I be so severely disabled through joint problems, or perhaps severe heart problems, that my quality of life would be pretty abysmal."

Her stapling operation was carried out by NHS surgeon Professor John Baxter, of the British Obesity Surgery Society.

He said: "These people's appetites don't turn off like you or I. It's a real disease.

"And, therefore, because people don't understand this there's still the stigma around that they bring it on themselves.

"Even the surgeons who carry out the surgery are often stigmatised by their colleagues."

Life-saving procedure

He added: "We operate on these patients not to make them look good, and feel good, which they do when they eventually lose weight. But, we operate on them to save their life. It's not a cosmetic procedure.

"We know, and I don't think anybody would deny, that surgery for obesity works. You never get down to a normal weight, but you're almost guaranteed to lose half of your excess weight, and any more is a bonus.

"Now, there's no medical treatment that will approach anywhere near that, and it's a very rare patient who can do it with just diet, and drugs and natural means.

"So, I don't think there's any debate that obesity surgery is effective."

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See also:

04 Dec 00 | Scotland
Scotland to get a 'fat controller'
06 Sep 00 | Scotland
Obesity threat to child health
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