Yorkshire '˜postcode lottery' means patients must get fatter to have surgery

Rationing of surgery to treat clinically obese people means that in some parts of Yorkshire, patients need to become 'super-obese' before they are allowed a weight loss operation, a new report suggests.

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Doctors in the East Riding and the Vale of York are demanding that patients must have a body mass index (BMI) score of over 50 before they qualify for bariatric surgery.

The mass index is calculated using a person’s weight and height. Those who have a score of more than 40 are classed as morbidly obese and those with an index of over 50 are deemed to be super-obese.

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Health experts are concerned that the message sent to obese patients is to get fatter so they can access surgery.

In the East Riding, patients must have a BMI of at least 50 before they will be considered for surgery. Those in the Vale of York must have a score of 50 or more, or 45 if they have another condition, such as diabetes.

A report from the British Obesity and Metabolic Surgery Society (BOMSS ) and the Royal College of Surgeons said there was “growing evidence of rationing” in an attempt to save money.

The authors said the policies created a “postcode lottery”, adding: “Bariatric surgery can restore good health as well as lead to cost savings for the NHS in the long term.”

BOMSS president Shaw Somers said: “It typifies the second-class citizen manner in which bariatric patients seem to be viewed.”

He said it was up to NHS England to make it clear to local clinical groups that they “must comply with the guidelines on who is eligible for this safe and effective treatment, not try to ration it in a misguided attempt to save money in the short term”.

Clare Marx, president of the Royal College of Surgeons, added: “This makes no sense and contradicts our very strong public health messages about the benefits of losing weight.”