Page last updated at 11:33 GMT, Thursday, 3 July 2008 12:33 UK

Huge demand for obesity surgery

Michele Rickard
Michele Rickard has lost two stone since her operation eight weeks ago

Doctors in Bristol say they are struggling to meet the demand for surgery to help people with obesity.

There are thought to be 5,000 patients in Bristol alone who qualify for gastric banding surgery on the NHS.

Southmead Hospital, in Bristol, offers the procedure but can only offer about 100 operations per year.

Surgeon Justin Morgan said: "We're trying to expand the service as much and as quickly as we can."

The obesity surgeon, who works for North Bristol NHS Trust, added: "But we certainly feel as if we're running to stand still at times."

Bristol and North Somerset Primary Care Trust has said patients must also have a severe obesity-related illness, like diabetes or high blood pressure, to qualify for gastric banding surgery.

The surgery involves inserting a plastic band around the stomach to reduce its size, making the patient feel full more quickly.

'Eating too much'

Michele Rickard, 42, from Nailsea, near Bristol, had the operation at Southmead Hospital eight weeks ago.

She has lost two stone (12.7kg) since the surgery and at 5ft 1in (1.54m) she now weighs 18 stone (114kg). When asked why she had become obese, she said:

"Laziness probably and eating too much if I'm honest."

Mrs Rickard also suffers from weight related diabetes and she hopes that the surgery will cure her of the condition.

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