Rising levels of obesity mean that one in six primary care trusts (PCTs) have recorded more than a seven-fold increase in spending on the condition over the past three years, figures suggest.
Costs have skyrocketed following escalating demand for procedures such as stomach surgery, as well the need for specialist equipment – like larger examination couches, according to figures obtained by GP newspaper under the Freedom of Information Act.
Previous data from the NHS information centre, published in February, show that the number of hospital admissions in 2007/08 for bariatric surgery – including stomach stapling and gastric bypass – stood at 2,724. This is a 40% rise on the previous year’s figure.
The most recent data show that 48% were treating more patients for obesity than three years previously.
But 25% of PCTs have also refused requests for bariatric surgery. Dr David Haslam, a GP in Hertfordshire and clinical director of the National Obesity Forum, explained that PCTs were turning down requests for surgery not because patients were failing to meet criteria laid down by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, but to cut costs.
He said: "PCTs are delighted to find any excuse to turn down bariatric surgery, despite the fact that it is among the most clinically effective, and cost effective procedures in any field of medicine."