Page last updated at 20:22 GMT, Thursday, 21 January 2010

NHS obesity operation access inconsistent: your views

Fat man measuring his waist with tape measure

Access to weight-loss operations on the NHS is "inconsistent and unethical", the Royal College of Surgeons has said.

The RCS says some patients who meet the criteria for stomach surgery of England and Wales health watchdog NICE have to wait until they become even more obese.

BBC News website readers have been telling us about their frustration at being refused weight-loss surgery or facing long delays with shifting criteria.

SARAH, AYLESBURY

Overweight people
"I wasn't obese enough for surgery"

I was turned down for surgery because I wasn't obese enough. I have a body mass index (BMI) of 48 yet my local primary care trust only operate on people with a BMI of 50+.

I have lost weight in the past but always put it back on again. I have tried pills without success. I eventually decided to ask the doctor's help in April 2009. We filled out the lengthy form requesting a gastric band operation. It took three months to get a reply from the PCT, turning me down. I was offered an appointment at an obesity clinic over 25 miles away instead. I have had to wait a further nine months for an appointment for this.

If I went private, I could have the operation next week. It's incredibly frustrating. We are constantly told we must lose weight by the government yet it takes so long to get any help from them. I'm concerned because delaying this operation might lead to further complications. I'm having trouble with my knee joints and blood pressure which would both improve if I lost weight.


MICHELLE WOODWARD, HULL, EAST YORKSHIRE
I received a letter stating that I had been put onto the "wrong pathway"

I was on the waiting list for surgery for nine months before suddenly being removed and denied the operation. I have a BMI of 52 and I'm 21st 7lb. I also have polycystic ovarian syndrome which means that it is harder for me to lose weight. The raised insulin levels in my body actually lead to weight gain instead.

After considering surgery for over two years, I finally decided it was my only option. I went see my consultant and attended all the support meetings and the dietician's clinic as I was advised to do. I did this for nine months before I was put on the waiting list for the operation.

Devastated

On 7th January I received a letter stating that I had been put onto the "wrong pathway" and advised instead to use a weight management programme at a drop-in centre. I was devastated. I went to see my GP who had never even heard of this programme.

When you decide to have this operation, you put your life on hold. You can't plan anything because you expect to have the operation sometime over the next 26 weeks, then you need six weeks to recover. I don't think the Primary Care Trust (PCT) really appreciate the effect these decisions have on peoples' lives. Is this fair?

RACHEL, DERBYSHIRE

I was told I wasn't heavy enough to qualify for surgery

I have been waiting for over two years for a gastric bypass. I was finally listed officially in November 2009, and I am hoping that I will be booked in for the operation at the end of this March or beginning of April.

I have had a thyroidectomy, and take a large daily dose of thyroxine. I also suffer quite badly from polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), arthritis and am borderline type two diabetic. The sad thing is three of my conditions will clear up with my weight. The PCOS is a vicious circle, it causes weight gain and gets steadily worse the heavier you are. Prior to having my son I was always slim, never bigger than a size 12 to 14.

As March approaches I am terrified that the rug will be pulled from under me and the operation cancelled. In the two years I have been trying for this, the guidelines have frequently changed. I have been ready for the operation twice before, only for the rules to change at the last minute. Once I was told the NICE guidelines had changed and on another occasion I was told I wasn't heavy enough.

Uncertainty

When I talk to people in different geographical areas, all the guidelines and rules differ. Some people apply and are operated on within six months.

The effect of this uncertainty is that you have to put everything on hold while you wait. You look forward to less pain and a better quality of life. You prepare your children for what is going to happen, then the operation is cancelled. The irony is, the sooner I have the operation, the less it will cost the NHS in the long run.



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