The British Obesity and Metabolic Surgery Society (BOMSS) has written a letter to British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, welcoming his plans to launch an anti-obesity strategy and urging him to take urgent action to help the NHS to rapidly introduce effective treatment for people with severe obesity.
According to The Times newspaper, the UK Prime Minister is said to have told ministers, “I’ve changed my mind on this”, and is convinced that his being overweight is one reason why he was admitted to intensive care after contracting COVID-19. Initial research has found that that having obesity doubles the risk of needing hospital treatment for COVID-19. Prior to becoming Prime Minister, Mr Johnson said he would review the “sin taxes”, such as the sugar tax introduced by former chancellor of the UK, George Osborne.
“Bariatric surgery is recognised by NICE as a cost-effective healthcare intervention and offers strong and sustained weight loss and improvement of obesity-related diseases. It should not be perceived as a ‘quick fix’ in terms of an easy solution for people living with obesity, but in terms of having potential to provide an intervention which is by far the most effective treatment for obesity that we have in the fight against the suffering and death being wreaked by Covid-19,” said Professor David Kerrigan, President of BOMSS.
Currently, the UK has one of the lowest rates of bariatric surgery in Europe with approximately 6,000 procedures performed each year, compared with approximately 60,000 in France, primarily due to a lack of funding and little appreciation of the health benefits and cost advantages of bariatric surgery.
“We were delighted to read your comments about the need for a more robust approach to tackling obesity during the current pandemic…” the letter states. “Bariatric surgery engenders beneficial improvements in type 2 diabetes within days of surgery, significant weight loss within 12 weeks and ongoing continued health improvements including remission of type 2 diabetes in 70% of patients, reduction in the number of heart attacks and strokes and increased life expectancy.”
The letter encourages the government to prioritise effective NICE-approved treatments for obesity, and in particular bariatric surgery, when elective surgeries are restarted by the NHS. BOMSS also requests that the NHS rapidly expands the number of annual procedures to a minimum of 20,000 bariatric procedures, as well as increase support for Tier 3 (medical weight management) services.
“There is now an urgent need for the NHS to deploy a rapidly effective treatment for severe obesity, so that we can move as many people out of harm’s way should they contract the virus. The glimmer of hope for the at-risk patient with obesity and/or diabetes is bariatric surgery,” the letter continues. “It is by far the most effective treatment for obesity that we have in the fight against the suffering and death being wreaked by COVID-19 in this group of patients.”
“Bariatric surgery is an intervention that requires life-long changes which impact all aspects of peoples’ lives. It is not a ‘quick fix’ and many people are judged for taking what is wrongly seen as an ‘easy way’ of weight loss, which is simply not true,” explained BOMSS National Research Lead, Dr Yitka Graham, an Associate Professor in Health Services Research. “It requires strength and life-long commitment. In this current pandemic, bariatric surgery is a weight-loss option which has potential to save lives in more ways than one. It’s more important than ever to support people living with obesity.”
To access the letter, please click here