Number of weight-loss operations 'need to triple to help NHS'

Credit: PA

The number of obese diabetic patients undergoing weight-loss surgery needs to triple in the next few years to help tackle the "major problem" facing the NHS, the health advisory body has warned.

The National Institute for Care and Excellence (Nice) said doctors should no longer encourage gastric bypass and sleeve gastrectomy surgery as "a last resort".

Around two million people in England may be considered for the £6,000 operation.

Despite the initial short-term cost, Nice said the long-term savings would mean the surgery would "pay for itself in two to three years' time".

One in six hospitals beds are taken up by a patient suffering from complications caused by diabetes. Credit: PA

The NHS would reap "huge" financial benefits by reducing the amount of patients in need of diabetic medication, while avoiding costly conditions such as heart failure, amputations and blindness.

Patients with a BMI of 30 and Type 2 diabetes could be eligible for the surgery if they have completed a weight-loss programme, it added.

Those with Type 2 diabetes who and a BMI of 35 may be assessed for the surgery automatically.

Currently, one in 20 people in the UK with Type 2 diabetes occupy one in six beds in some hospitals because of complications caused by the disease, Nice said.

Professor John Wilding, a consultant physician in diabetes who helped develop the guidance, said he hoped to see the number of operations on obese diabetics triple from an average of 4,000 a year to 15,000 a year.

Rachel Batterham, head of obesity and bariatric services at University College London Hospital NHS Trust, said the health service needed to "embrace" weight-loss surgery as an "effective, safe treatment".

Poor diet and lack of exercise are some of the root causes of Type 2 diabetes. Credit: PA Wire

But Professor Iain Broom, director of the centre for obesity research and education at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, accused Nice of taking a wrong turn with its new guidance.

He said the proposal conflicted with plans put forward by the chief executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens.

"The Nice guidance could send tens of thousands of Britons towards unnecessary surgery, with its known morbidity and mortality, and costing taxpayers many millions of pounds, when all that is required is a different dietary and lifestyle approach including the use of low carbohydrate diets and low, and very low, calorie diets."