Weight Loss Surgery in UK is Still a "Postcode Lottery" - Says Michael Dermody of Cosmetic Bliss Weight Loss Surgery Specialists
Despite the growth of the Obesity Epidemic, provision for Bariatric surgery in the UK is still very patchy and limited. Here is an overview of the current provisions, and the stance taken by local PCTs and some guidance and possible solutions for patients seeking surgery for morbid obesity.
When NICE (The National Institute for Clinical Excellence) issued Guideline 43 in December 2006, it clearly stated who should be considered for surgery – patients with a BMI of over 40 (or over 35 with obesity-related “co-morbidities”) who have exhausted attempts to maintain weight loss through more conventional methods. The guidelines also recommend Surgery as a “first line option” for patients with a BMI of over 50.
In Jan 2008 BOSPA (the British Obesity Surgery Patients’ Association) published a survey of the attitude of PCTs – those bodies in the UK who are responsible for allocating funding for surgery. Many did not respond, but of those who did around half confirmed they applied much stricter criteria when approving funding of surgery than the NICE guidelines. There remains no clinical justification whatever for denying surgery to patients who meet the NICE guidelines – so the practice of insisting on much more severe criteria before allowing surgery is clearly based on limiting cost. Local PCTs clearly have a finite budget with many competing demands, and Obesity surgery is potentially a great drain on their resources. The NICE guidelines are, after all, only guidelines and are not legally enforceable – though some patients have sought legal redress for the failure of their PCTs to adequately deal with their health problem.
It seems a very short-sighted approach, in terms of the PCTs duty to provide adequate healthcare, condemning obese patients to become more ill as the obesity-related diseases develop, and even from the cost point of view studies have shown that Obesity Surgery pays for itself over approx. 3 years, as the cost burden of treating co-morbidities such as Type II Diabetes is reduced in patients who have lost significant weight. The government makes little provision for tackling this epidemic, and largely leaves PCTs to “get on with it as best they can”
So, what can someone who is classified as Morbidly Obese, and needs surgery do?
Here is the advice of Michael Dermody, Director of Cosmetic Bliss who arranges for safe Weight Loss Surgery for English-speaking patients in the Czech republic
"It is possible to attempt to put pressure on your local PCT through your GP to approve surgery, but it is a long uphill battle, with very little prospect of success.
You can look for surgery privately, which is the course most obese patients follow.
There are problems and pitfalls here, quite apart from the cost you will have to meet.
Firstly you have to be careful to choose a surgeon, hospital/clinic and company, (if you arrange your surgery through a Healthcare company as most do) who are not only experienced in the type of surgery which will be best for you, but also you must be sure that all the pre-operative health checks and tests are at least as extensive as in the NHS. It goes without saying that every effort should be made to ensure your surgery is as safe as possible. Psychological evaluation and some counselling to ensure a patient is at the right point to be able to succeed with weight loss following surgery is absolutely vital. NICE recommends that obesity should be managed by a multi-disciplinary team, and that post-operative support is essential.
Post-operative support – whatever the surgery - is very important and you should be careful to chose a surgery provider who is willing to offer this, and not simply prepared to leave it to your GP to give advice and help after the surgery.
Cosmetic Bliss http://www.cosmeticbliss.co.uk/p/weight-loss-surgery is a weight loss surgery company who arrange safe Obesity Surgery for English-speaking patients at the Bariatric and Metabolic Centre – Breclav Hospital in the Czech Republic with Dr Michal Cierny PhD the Bariatric surgeon. They have a great deal of experience in preparing patients and giving them sufficient information to ensure safe surgery. The hospital is working to become a European Centre of Excellence in Bariatric Surgery, and the pre-operative health checks and tests for patients are very extensive. Cosmetic Bliss accompany all patients throughout their stay at the hospital and provide a full system of post operative support, nutrition diet and exercise advice. They encourage regular post-operative contact and follow up with patients for a minimum of 2 years after surgery, and monitor post-operative outcomes and weight loss following surgery on behalf of Dr Cierny. They are keen to work with UK GPs in providing post operative support to all patients. Although initially many patients are a little intimidated by the prospect of having surgery abroad, the quality of care, the system of safeguards Cosmetic Bliss and the Hospital have put in place, and the hand-holding service Cosmetic Bliss provide whilst the patient is in Hospital make it a very reassuring experience. Prices are fully inclusive and the cost is also significantly lower than arranging for surgery in the UK.
Under Article 49 of the European Treaty it may be possible for patients to claim back some of the costs of their treatment from their PCT, if they can show they met all the criteria for acceptance for surgery in the UK."