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Two million patients eligible for bariatric surgery, estimate researchers

Over two million people in England are estimated to currently fulfil the criteria for weight loss surgery, a number that ‘far exceeds’ previous estimates, say experts.

Their analysis shows that around 5.4% of the adult population in England could meet the criteria for bariatric surgery, although they were unable to exclude those unsuitable for surgery.

The researchers reached their conclusions after cross-referencing data from the Health Survey for England 2006 on patients with a BMI 35 and above, and who have co-morbidities such as hypertension, stroke or type 2 diabetes.

NICE guidelines say weight loss surgery is appropriate only for people with a BMI of 40 or more, or a BMI of 35-40 and a serious health condition. Other conditions apply, including that patients must have tried non-surgical methods such as diet and exercise.

The study – published today by the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine – found that patients eligible were more often women, retired and those with lower educational qualifications and socioeconomic status.

The researchers concluded: ‘This is the first study to quantify the number of people eligible for bariatric surgery using data from a nationally representative survey in England.’

Study leader Dr Sonia Saxena, a reader in primary care at Imperial College London, called for greater investment in provision for weight loss surgery, as obesity rates continue to rise.

She said: ‘Since those eligible are more likely to be of a lower social class and have lower qualifications, resources would need careful allocation to ensure equitable access on the basis of need.’

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