By Lilian Anekwe
Some £56m could be saved in prescriptions and GP appointments by wider use of bariatric surgery, according to the Office of Health Economics.
A detailed analysis by the ONE surveyed PCTs on their current implementation of the NICE guidance on bariatric surgery in England, and calculated the potential economic benefits that could be achieved through adherence to the NICE guideline.
NICE guidance recommends that patients should be considered for bariatric surgery when they have a BMI of 40 kg/m2 or more, or a BMI of over 35 kg/m2 plus an associated condition such as diabetes. It also advises that all appropriate non- surgical measures have been attempted before surgery.
But the ONE data suggests that PCTs are either not following the guidance or interpreting it stringently.
Their economic model estimated that between 11,000 and 140,000 people in England currently qualify for bariatric surgery under NICE guidelines, but only 3,600 procedures took place in England in 2009-10.
‘Adherence is generally sub-optimal but the number of procedures commissioned by PCTs ranged from 1 to 194 in 2009-10 indicating a wide variation in practice,' the report found.
Full implementation of the NICE guidance would save around £56m per annum of direct healthcare cost to the NHS, through reduced prescriptions and GP visits, it concluded.
Professor David Haslam, chair of the national obesity forum and a GP in Watton-at-Stone, Hertfordshire said: ‘Healthcare professionals working in the field of obesity management are calling for the Department of Health to invest in long term strategies ensuring that patients have equal access to treatment by experienced multi-disciplinary teams in well-equipped centres offering full specialist assessment, and appropriate treatment providing safe long-term follow up and emergency re-admission.'Obese patients often do not receive bariatric surgery