This site is intended for health professionals only

Two million could benefit from weight loss surgery

Up to two million people could benefit from weight loss surgery, a study has claimed. 

Recent data show bariatric surgery rates have increased every year in England, but the number of surgeries carried out is significantly below the number of people who could benefit. 

Roughly 8,000 people per year are currently receiving the treatment, but researchers believe at least 5% of the population could benefit.  

People who fit the criteria for bariatric surgery are more likely to be retired women with lower educational qualifications and lower socioeconomic status, researchers from Imperial College London have found. 

Bariatric surgery - a set of surgical procedures performed on obese people to decrease their stomach size - can greatly reduce the likelihood of death from obesity-related diseases including type 2 diabetes, stroke and coronary heart disease.

Bariatric surgery, such as the fitting of gastric bands, is only available on the NHS when other treatments have not worked. 

Lead researcher Dr Sonia Saxena said: "Despite clear guidelines outlining who can undergo such surgery with the NHS, and evidence that these procedures are cost-effective in the long run, less than 1% of those eligible have weight loss surgery each year.

"This raises questions about why more procedures are not currently being carried out."

The researchers point to several factors that could contribute to low surgery rates. “At the patient level, this study could be consistent with an inverse care law whereby those most in need of bariatric surgery are in socioeconomic groups who tend to make less use of healthcare services” said Dr Saxena. 

The study, Eligibility for bariatric surgery among adults in England: analysis of a national cross-sectional survey, is available to view on the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine website