14-year-old among 45 children to undergo surgery for obesity

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An obese 14-year-old child is the youngest patient recorded to have undergone weight-loss surgery in England since 2007, parliamentary figures show.

The youngster had one of the 45 procedures carried out on under- 18s, which aim to reduce the size of the stomach or make a person feel full by eating less food, according to the data.

Health Minister Jane Ellison said there were 22 gastric bypasses, 18 gastric bands, two gastric bubble/balloon procedures and three stomach staples on youngsters from April 2007 to March 2012.

The number of cases where people were primarily admitted to hospital because of obesity and then required weight-loss surgery totalled 24,383 from April 2009 to March 2012 and increased year-on-year, the figures show.

There were 115 procedures for obese 10 to 19-year-olds while the 40 to 49 age range recorded the highest total, with 8,821 in the three-year period.

The figures also show people living in the more deprived 10 to 20 per cent of the country recorded the most admissions requiring surgery, 3,792, compared with a low of 1,156 for patients in the least deprived 10 per cent of England.

Former Health Minister Paul Burstow said: “These figures are the public health equivalent of the canary in the coal mine. They are the most extreme end of an obesity epidemic that could undo the gains in life expectancy we have seen over the past century.

“The solution cannot come from the NHS – it can only be found in our homes, our schools and our workplaces. Teaching children about healthy eating and providing free school meals to all infant age children can help. It also needs the responsibility deal with the food industry to deliver.”

Weight-loss surgery is used as a last resort to treat people who are dangerously obese, according to the NHS.

The service says this type of surgery is only available on the NHS to treat people with potentially life-threatening obesity when other treatments, such as lifestyle changes, have not worked.

Conservative MP Priti Patel uncovered the figures in a series of parliamentary questions.

The data obtained by Ms Patel also show that there were 514 cases where children aged up to nine were admitted to hospital mainly because of obesity from April 2009 to March 2012, with 1,601 admissions for 10 to 19-year-olds.

Both groups have seen admissions – recorded as “finished admission episodes” (FAEs) which denote the first period of inpatient care under one consultant within one provider – decrease year-on-year, although total hospital admissions for patients with obesity-related issues increased in this period to 34,361.

Women also substantially outnumbered men for the number of FAEs mainly linked to obesity. They accounted for 25,792 of the finished admissions compared with 8,563 for men.

The figures do not represent the number of inpatients, as a person might have had more than one admission.

The data was provided by the Health and Social Care Information Centre, which compiles data from more than 300 NHS trusts and primary care trusts in England and from some independent sector organisations for activity commissioned by NHS England.

According to new NHS guidance announced earlier this week, doctors should not blame patients for being fat.

The guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence said the tone used by doctors to discuss obesity should be “respectful” and “non-blaming” in order to “minimise harm”.

It said doctors and other health workers should “be aware of the effort needed to lose weight and avoid further weight gain and the stigma adults who are overweight or obese may feel or experience”.