Admissions for obesity nearly double in year

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Numbers of patients treated in Yorkshire’s hospitals for conditions linked to obesity nearly doubled last year, latest figures reveal.

There were 23,883 admissions to hospitals in the region with a primary or secondary diagnosis of obesity in 2010-11 – up 89 per cent on the previous 12 months.

The increase is the biggest of any region in England and compares with a 49 per cent rise across the country.

It came, however, as the numbers of patients undergoing surgery for obesity fell for the first time in Yorkshire in the latest signs health chiefs are cutting back on operations to save cash.

Some 837 people from the region underwent bariatric surgery in 2010-11, down from 866 the year before.

Overall, there were 8,087 operations carried out in England, up 12 per cent. The number is a 30-fold increase compared with a decade previously when 261 people went under the knife.

Bariatric weight-loss surgery includes stomach stapling, gastric bypasses and a procedure called sleeve gastrectomy.

There are significant regional variations in hospital admissions for obesity and weight loss surgery. Patients in the East Midlands are almost six times more likely to gain access to operations compared with those in the North West and twice as likely as those in Yorkshire.

Tam Fry, from the National Obesity Forum, said: “The regional variations in admissions and surgery are very concerning.

“Having examined the variations, the forum believes that they illustrate a postcode lottery which still exists in England. It is deplorable.

“Some primary care trusts abide by National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence guidance in offering bariatric operation to obese patients but others flout it by making it virtually impossible to qualify for the surgery.”

It remains unclear why the numbers hospital admissions have risen dramatically in the region although one reason could include improved reporting by hospitals.

Figures also show those admitted to hospital with a main diagnosis of obesity fell in the region by six per cent to 1,165, compared with a national rise of nine per cent.

Admissions among women are almost three times higher than for men, with 8,654 women receiving hospital treatment nationally compared with 2,919 men.

Numbers of prescriptions issued for obesity saw the first decrease in seven years in 2010, partly due to the withdrawal of two drugs, although 1.1 million items were still dispensed.

An estimated 26 per cent of both men and women were obese in 2010. By 2025, it is predicted 47 per cent of men and 36 per cent of women will be obese, leading to a significant increase in illness and death linked to heart disease, strokes, cancer and diabetes.

But campaigners have branded a new Government campaign to tackle obesity “woefully inadequate”, claiming it amounted to little more than telling people to eat less.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley announced a “national ambition” to bring down obesity levels by 2020 but has ruled out regulating the food industry and urged people to take responsibility for their own health. But Prime Minister David Cameron has said he is prepared to consider a “fat tax” on fatty foods.

A Department of Health spokesman said yesterday: “We want people to live healthier lives so they do not need to resort to surgery. We are working with charities, local government and industry to make it easier for people to make better choices.

“This year a third of meals and takeaways served from popular high street chains will contain calorie information and over a million families are involved in our Change4Life campaign – helping people to eat well and move more.”