Up to two million people are to become entitled to gastric band surgery on the NHS, as a result of new guidelines. If everyone takes up the treatment they are entitled to it would cost the taxpayer £12bn and see men weighing just 15st 6lb (216 pounds) being treated.
The guidelines from the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) say that patients with type 2 diabetes should be entitled to the bands if they have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30. This means a 5ft 6in woman weighing 13st 9lb (191 pounds) would be entitled, as would a 5ft 11in man at 15st 6lb. The National Health Service classifies anyone with a BMI over 30 as being obese.
Offering gastric bands to such a large number of people has been criticised by doctors who claim it is unnecessary. They point out that changes in diet and lifestyle can be as effective as gastric bands, and are a far cheaper option.
Professor Iain Broom, of the Centre for Obesity Research and Education at Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, told the Daily Mail: “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.”
Concerns about the enormous £12bn bill for the treatment were also raised by the Taxpayers’ Alliance. John O’Connell, Director of the TPA said: “Money does not grow on trees and every penny spent on these surgeries is a penny that can’t be spent elsewhere. We have to educate and inform people about the dangers of unhealthy eating, as experts suggest, rather than use potentially billions of pounds to treat the symptoms of poor nutrition.
“In a world of scarce resources, this guidance is simply unrealistic and reflects NICE’s unwillingness to sensibly prioritise treatments so that the NHS might become more financially sustainable.”
The cost of the surgery could lead to tax increases and longer waiting times for patients with illnesses that could not have been prevented. The NHS is already struggling with longer waiting times and as previously reported on Breitbart London the government was forced to pledge £250m to clear the backlog of patients this winter.
The number of people waiting more than the governments 18 week target had risen to 29,847 by the middle of 2014.