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BBC programme

BBC programme to examine obesity bias

The programme will report how people with obesity are unable to access bariatric surgery despite NICE guideline – because Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) are not failing to commission bariatric surgery.

On Tuesday 11th April at 9-10pm, BBC2 will broadcast a documentary highlighting the poor access to surgery experienced by people in England and Wales. Specially, the programme will report how people with obesity are unable to access bariatric surgery despite NICE guideline – because Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) are not failing to commission bariatric surgery.

Rachel Batterham

The programme will feature several obesity experts, and will be presented by Professor Rachel Batterham, Professor of Obesity, Diabetes and Endocrinology at UCL and head of the UCLH Bariatric Centre for Weight Management and Metabolic Surgery, London, UK, member of BOMSS Council, as well as a member of the NICE Guideline Development Group that established the current obesity guidelines.

In the programme, Rachel will also explore whether there is 'fat prejudice' against obese patients within parts of the NHS that is stopping them accessing a potentially cost-effective surgery, even when recent scientific research supports it.

She will also meets several NHS patients who say they were made to feel 'not worthy' and were denied life-changing bariatric surgery and other routine operations. This seems to show evidence of a bias within the health service. She also speaks to others who have tried to use the NHS weight management services, with one admitting it actually made her gain two stone.

Rachel also meets patients who are successfully using the diet and lifestyle programme (Tier 3 services), which the NHS require them to do for two whole years before being considered for surgery.

In March 2017, The British Obesity and Metabolic Surgery Society (BOMSS) and the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) released a joint report that revealed several CCGs have adopted policies which attempt to ration bariatric surgery to the super-obese, and ignore official advice on who should be eligible for surgery.

Some CCGs either require patients to stop smoking or for patients to have a BMI>50, despite NHS England and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) stating that surgery is cost effective and should be considered for patients with a BMI>35 with a co-morbidity (a further medical condition) such as Type II diabetes, or a BMI>40 without a co-morbidity.

NHS England is currently delegating the commissioning of bariatric surgery to CCGs although most groups (79%) have yet to decide their own policies. In total, seven CCGs admitted they are not complying with the NHS England and NICE guidance

BOMSS and the RCS are warning this could harm patients and are demanding they revise their policies to bring them in line with the official guidelines. The report showed that most CCGs have not yet adopted their own bariatric surgery policies, but will have to do so by next month under a phased government NHS reform.

Could weight loss surgery actually be a more cost-effective method of treatment for the NHS?

To access the programme’s website, please click here the programme is available in the UK after 10pm, 11th April 2017.

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