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Weight-loss stomach surgery increases 40% in a year

The amount of bariatric surgery the NHS carries out on obese people to help them lose weight increased 40% in 2007–08, according to a report from the NHS Information Centre today.

Overall hospital admissions for obesity also increased, reaching 5,018 in 2007–08, a 30% increase on 2006–07 and almost a seven-fold increase on 1996–97.

In 2007–08, people with a primary diagnosis of obesity had  2,724 hospital episodes involving bariatric surgery (a range of procedures carried out on the stomach that can help weight-loss and which include stomach stapling, gastric bypasses and sleeve gastrectomy).

This was 40% up on 2006–07 when 1,951 such episodes involving people with a primary diagnosis of obesity took place. The number of episodes is of course small in the context of the proportion of obese people in the population.

The number of NHS prescription items dispensed to treat obesity increased to 1.23 million in 2007 – a rise of 16% from 2006.

The two drugs most commonly prescribed for weight loss purposes in the NHS are sibutramine and orlistat. Sibutramine alters chemical messages to the brain that control feelings and thoughts about food, while the other, orlistat, prevents some fat absorption in the intestine.

The report, Statistics on obesity, physical activity and diet: England, February 2009, highlights the prevalence of obesity among adults and children and the demands this is placing on NHS services. The report also charts changing patterns of physical activity and diet.

Chief Executive of The NHS Information Centre, Tim Straughan, said: "The report highlights the scale of the country's obesity problem and shows increasing NHS treatment using weight-loss surgery and medications.

"The report shows that since 1997 a greater proportion of adults are meeting government guidelines for the amount of physical activity they should be doing to stay healthy and since 2001 a greater proportion of both adults and children are eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.

"Obesity increases the risk of health problems for many millions of people and our report shows measures such as weight-loss surgery and medication are being used increasingly."

NHS Information Centre