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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 November 2005, 13:44 GMT
Obesity surgery doubles in size
By James Clarke
BBC News, England

A fat stomach
More than 4,000 people will have obesity surgery in England in 2005
About twice as many people will have operations to overcome their obesity this year as went under the knife during 2004, according to a patients' organisation.

More than 4,000 operations are expected to be carried out in England during 2005 - with the North and the West Midlands the regions where most will take place.

The British Obesity Surgery Patient Organisation (Bospa), which provided the figures, said the rise stemmed from more surgeons being trained to perform operations and increased awareness that the surgery was available.

But it said the number of operations was still dwarfed by the number of morbidly obese people needing the surgery.

The Department of Health said such surgery was a "last resort" which required long-term care after the operation and could not be entered into easily.

'Lagging behind'

Stomach stapling has been phased out and the figures show more than half the weight loss operations being carried out in England are gastric banding.

The procedure consists of a band being inserted into the body which acts like a belt around the top of the stomach, creating a small pouch.

It means the patient should then feel full after eating only a small amount of food, because the small pouch fills up much quicker than the whole stomach would.

Operations increasing
2004 - 52 surgeons performed 2,099 operations in England
2005 - 63 surgeons expected to perform 4,039 operations
Source - BOSPA

Janet Edmond, director of Bospa, said it was good news more patients were receiving surgery but stressed many more needed operations.

She said: "Bospa receives 3,000-4,000 inquiries each month from patients seeking information about surgery or assistance in obtaining funding.

"It's most definitely a good thing more people are having surgery but we're still lagging behind a number of our European country counterparts.

"The number of surgeons available there has been more than in the UK, when the level of morbid obesity here is higher."

Diego Maradona pictured before and after his operation
Diego Maradona seven months apart, before and after his surgery

Operations for celebrities have seen obesity surgery become the focus of media attention.

Argentine football legend Diego Maradona had surgery in March after reaching 20 stone (127kg) and has since reinvented himself as a slim chat show host, while Buster Bloodvessel, the famously overweight singer from the Ska band Bad Manners, dropped from 31 stone (197kg) to 12 stone (76kg) after a gastric bypass operation at Leeds Nuffield Hospital.

Ms Edmond said increased media coverage had made more people aware of the possibilities of operations, but denied patients were jumping into surgery before exploring other weight-loss options.

"To a certain extent, with people who are morbidly obese, it's the only treatment there is.

'Tried everything'

"It's very much the end of the line, but most people who have the operations have spent most of their adult lives going to weight loss classes or on drug programmes.

"It's hugely important that people educate themselves and do a lot of research prior to surgery and know that it really isn't an easy option.

"I don't think I've spoken to anybody who has contacted us who hasn't really tried everything."

If I can one day say 'I'm about 15 stone' I will be the happiest man in Christendom
Roy Hammacott, down to 20 stone

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said: "Surgery to aid weight loss is a serious procedure not a quick fix.

"It is a treatment option for people with morbid obesity provided they meet a range of criteria including having tried all other appropriate non-surgical treatments to lose weight.

"People will need long-term follow up care from a doctor and other healthcare professionals such as dieticians or psychologists.

"Tackling obesity is not just about helping those who are already overweight, it is about preventing obesity in the first place."

Roy Hammacott before and after his operation
Roy Hammacott has lost seven stone but wants to lose five more

But some of those who have had surgery said it has changed their lives overwhelmingly for the better.

Roy Hammacott, 56, who lives near Bristol, had a gastric band fitted in January, when he weighed 27-and-a-half stone (175kg).

He was operated on at Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton, where surgeons expect to carry out three times as many operations in 2005 as they did in 2004.

Ten months after the operation his weight has dropped to 20 stone (127kg) and he no longer has problems with diabetes.

Mr Hammacott said: "I'm worried the surgery is being treated as non-urgent because it's brought back my life really.

"I've got more energy and I'm absolutely over the moon - I wish to God it had been available to me years ago.

"The big thing about it is the operation is only half the deal, the other half is the mindset. You've got to be convinced about what you are doing.

"I'm still not finished, if you go by the height-to-weight charts I should be about 12 stone (76kg), but if I can one day say 'I'm about 15 stone (95kg)' I will be the happiest man in Christendom."




SEE ALSO
Q&A: Obesity
26 May 04 |  Medical notes
Dramatic increase in obesity ops
25 Oct 05 |  Somerset
Maradona has surgery on stomach
06 Mar 05 |  Football

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