On the Agenda - Obese are hit by postcode lottery

In a nutshell Senior surgeons branded access to NHS weight-loss surgery as 'inconsistent, unethical and completely dependent on geographical location' at a Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) conference last week. Constraints on NHS funding mean that, in some areas, guidelines are being ignored and patients denied access to surgery.

Obesity: new figures
Obesity: new figures

What is the background?

According to the NHS Constitution published in 2009, morbidly obese patients have a legal right to be properly assessed for weight-loss surgery under guidelines set out by NICE. However, the RCS has learned that while some PCTs adhere to the guidelines, others are only referring the most extremely ill patients for surgery.

Why is this a problem?

Surgeons say there is no clinical evidence to support the practice of only operating on the most overweight patients. In fact, evidence suggests that not only do these patients have less to gain from surgery, they are far more likely to suffer serious complications.

PR strategy

The story was handled by the in-house team at the RCS and was broken to reporters via a media release and a briefing of key national journalists. It was timed to coincide with the first national meeting of bariatric surgeons.

Media coverage

The story led Radio 4's Today programme on 21 January and featured on BBC Online, BBC Wales, BBC Breakfast, Sky News and Fox News, plus national newspaper websites. The Times carried a double-page spread, while PA's coverage led to regional newspaper and commercial radio exposure.

240k of the 1m people who meet NICE criteria want surgery

4,300 weight-loss operations were done by the NHS in 2009.

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