Page last updated at 09:51 GMT, Tuesday, 18 May 2010 10:51 UK

NHS gastric band surgery to rise

Overweight man
Obesity is believed to cost the NHS in Scotland 475m a year

The NHS in Scotland is to increase the amount of weight loss surgery it carries out, BBC Scotland can reveal.

Extra operations are to be offered at the Golden Jubilee Hospital in Clydebank near Glasgow.

It will provide bariatric surgery - procedures to fit gastric bands and stomach stapling to restrict the amount of food people can digest.

The move comes after Scottish ministers announced plans in February to tackle the country's obesity "time bomb".

NHS guidelines state that anyone who is so overweight that their life is at risk should be offered weight loss surgery, such as a gastric band, to restrict the amount of food they can eat.

In reality, however, severely obese people in Scotland face a long wait, if they ever get surgery at all.

Last year more than 250 people were referred for weight loss surgery, but only 165 operations were carried out.

Most Scottish health boards do not offer it and the few that do often say they are overwhelmed by demand.

The Golden Jubilee Hospital has announced that it is to start performing gastric band operations.

Golden Jubilee Hospital
The Golden Jubilee was originally built as a private hospital

A total of 60 procedures will be carried out next year for patients from the west of Scotland although health boards anywhere in Scotland will be able to refer patients in future.

Laura Brown, 36, from the Whiteinch area of Glasgow, had a gastric band fitted two years ago when she weighed 25st (158kg) and was a recluse.

She now weighs 11st (68kg).

She said: "It is a difficult option to take. The days that are good are when I can eat sensibly. The days that are bad are when I'm finding it hard to drink or eat solids, and sometimes I am a little bit sick."

Ms Brown added: "I have got a gastric band but I don't have a band round my brain so my food addiction is still there.

"I think about food morning, noon and night. I do have after-care but it is still very hard to think that there is no cure for my head."

Alistair Flowerdew, medical director of the Golden Jubilee
Alistair Flowerdew, medical director of the Golden Jubilee

Alistair Flowerdew, medical director of the Golden Jubilee, said: "The procedure is done under general anaesthetic and takes about 45 minutes.

"It is a small inflatable device, like a little tyre almost, around the top of the stomach that is allowed to blow up and reduce. You can control the actual tension on that band to control how much is allowed to be swallowed.

"A lot of people who have a high body mass index (BMI) do tend to eat a lot of food. It is a lot to get used to. You get this instant restriction the moment you swallow."

He added that one of the important parts of the after-care support was getting the tension right in the band.

Speaking before a visit to the Golden Jubilee Hospital, Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said: "Obesity currently costs Scotland over £457m a year. If we do not address this epidemic now it is estimated that this figure could reach over £3bn a year by 2030.

More surgery

"Surgery for obesity is rare and the Scottish government's focus is on preventing people becoming obese in the first place.

"However this new service at the Golden Jubilee will ensure that for those who need it treatment is available."

In February, Scottish ministers announced plans to work with the food industry, business and schools to try to tackle Scotland's obesity "time bomb".

The move came after a report suggested 40% of the population could be classed as obese by 2030.

The Golden Jubilee Hospital was built as a private hospital in 1994 by Health Care International.

It was purchased by the NHS in 2002 at a cost of £37.5m to help reduce waiting times for treatment.

As well as that specialised function, it is also home to the West of Scotland Heart and Lung Centre.

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