The UK has battled with the problem of obesity for years and years, and has previously been dubbed the most overweight country in Europe. Professionals believe that this increasing problem is in part thanks to the widespread advertising of fast food and fizzy drinks, especially that of McDonald’s and Coca-Cola during the recent Olympic games. This is said to be sending out ‘the wrong message’ to sporting fans, and paired with the rapid increase of the diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes, has meant that gastric band surgeries are now being increasingly requested by UK citizens. This, in turn, is pushing up NHS costs to £5.1bn per year, and now healthcare professionals have decided to look into matters before allowing people to go ahead and have the procedure.

The surgery, which is being proposed to tackle an epidemic of type 2 diabetes, is said to cost between £3,000 and £15,000, depending on the extent of each patient’s health problems. This has risen concerns that the NHS may not be able to afford giving everyone the surgery, and they have therefore begun narrowing it down to people with diabetes or other health defects, which, paired with obesity, can be severely life threatening. Diabetes UK  has estimated that 850,000 people may be eligible for the surgery, but they must have a BMI of over 35 and some sort of health defect. However, the amount of people requesting such treatments threatens to be tens of thousands – something that the NHS does not have the money to provide. Despite rising costs, however, the surgery is still not guaranteed to work, with 40 percent of patients noting they have no improvement of symptoms afterwards.

Currently, around 8,000 people a year are receiving the treatment in the UK, whether or not they have diabetes. Some people’s obesity has been the catalyst for further problems, and even this won’t necessarily make them eligible for the treatment. This is why many now travel abroad for the surgeries – they are cheaper and more readily available, especially in places such as America, where obesity is also rife. People travelling abroad will inevitably increase the amount of patients receiving the surgery, and before we know it there may literally be tens of thousands of people receiving it yearly in order to combat their health problems. This goes both for gastric band surgery (where a band is used to reduce the stomach size, so less food is required to feel full) and gastric bypass surgery (where the digestive system is rerouted, so less food is digested, giving the feeling of fullness), which is otherwise known as weight loss surgery and commonly used for people that are overweight, but do not harbour other health deficiencies.

However, in order to deter such large numbers of UK’s overweight citizens from requesting surgery, the NHS have released new guidelines for weight loss, which advise people to ‘lose a little and keep it off’. These guidelines are to stop people who are slightly overweight from using the surgery as a way of neglecting healthy eating and exercise. It has been said that even losses of a few pounds would cut blood pressure levels and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes in many of the UK’s obese patients. NHS health professionals also believe that this step towards losing weight can lead to lifelong changes in some people rather than yo-yo dieting, but admitted that it wouldn’t be easy to achieve. Mike Kelly believes that ‘people find it difficult…it takes resolve, it takes encouragement’. The fact that losing weight is difficult to do, of course, is the reason that many people don’t bother, and this is why they rely on weight loss surgeries to do the work for them.

Recent surveys suggested that two in three adults in England are overweight, which means that they have a BMI of 25 or over. Divided up, it means that 42 percent of men are overweight, while the figure for women stands at 32 percent – and they are rising yearly. Professionals have stated that obesity is the single greatest threat to health – more so than smoking, although this is also a contributing factor to various health problems. Campaigns are now beginning to promote exercise, restrict food advertising and review the case for ‘fat taxes’. These steps are being taken after predictions surfaced suggesting that half of UK children will be overweight by the year 2020.

All in all, it is easy to see that this problem is an ongoing one. With more and more people reaching the level of becoming clinically obese, demand for gastric surgeries as well as liposuctions is likely to increase. However, unless they are willing to pay for these themselves, it is unlikely they will receive it unless they have life threatening issues related to their illness e.g., diabetes or heart problems – and rightly so, too.



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