Medical experts are dealing with a rising number of “super-obese” patients who are placing a huge financial burden on the NHS.
More than 100 people each year are having dangerous gastric operations at Mid Yorkshire Hospitals Trust after putting on so much weight that only surgery can help them live.
Medics at the Trust say obese patients – who have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of more than 25 – often have complex health problems and are at risk of broken bones, and life-limiting health episodes like heart attacks and strokes.
And rising numbers are being diagnosed with type two diabetes – which makes them seven times more likely to die.
On Wednesday, nurses, psychologists, surgeons and other specialists met at Pinderfields Hospital for a conference on tackling obesity and diabesity – a new term for overweight patients with diabetes.
Nurse specialist Maxine Rooney explained different types of surgery including adjustable gastric bands and operations to reduce stomach size.
She said: “Overall the surgery is very successful. It is life-changing. People are able to work and come off benefits.”
Operations reduce excess weight – body bulk over a BMI of 25 – by around 60 per cent but have a string of long-term effects. Some patients who are addicted to food see their addictions transfer to other substances such as drugs and alcohol.
Others see their relationships breakdown and suffer psychological problems because they are not used to their new physical shape. Many find it hard to adjust to smaller food portions, and all have to take vitamin supplements for the rest of their lives. Mrs Rooney said all patients were referred to psychologists before they had the surgery.
She said: “It’s no magic cure. It’s a very dangerous operation, especially if your BMI is over 50 or 60.”
At the event, Dr Chinnadorai Rajeswaran put on a bariatric suit, which emulates what it is like to weigh 30 stones, to help medics understand the effects of obesity on everyday life. He said obesity was costing the NHS £5bn a year – but that was set to rise to a staggering £50bn by 2050 based on current trends.
Dr Rajeswaran, who is chairman of the National Diabesity Forum, said: “The obese are going to become the super-obese. If someone has got a BMI of 30 that will become 40. It is going to cost the country a lot of money.
“At some point they are so big they are going to have cancer, a heart attack, a stroke. If an obese person has diabetes there is a seven-fold chance of them dying.”
Dr Rajeswaran said the rise in obesity was caused by a combination of factors.
He said: “It’s the stresses of life, it’s people finding it easier to get energy-rich food and no places to be physically active.
“If it goes on like this it will be hard to sustain. We all need to work together – politicians, the community, social care workers, families, schools and the media.”
Mid Yorkshire’s Weight Management Team provides a holistic approach to tackling obesity, offering personalised 12-week sessions around Wakefield and Kirklees to patients aged 17-70.
Dr Tolu Shonibare said: “There may be medical reasons for weight gain, so it is about providing appropriate programmes. For example, running or visiting a gym can injure obese patients so we have developed chair and swimming pool activities.”
Clinical Lead Dietician Arelis Rodriguez said the team was working to tackle ignorance about obesity.
She said: “There are a lot of myths surrounding weight loss. People often skip meals and believe there are right and wrong foods so promise never to eat certain items again.
“The challenge is to develop a normal diet with decent portion sizes and a motivational exercise regime that matches a patient’s needs.
“We also have to get to the root causes of why someone is obese. It may even be to do with them having an addictive personality.”