Obese people in Wales 'denied' life saving treatment

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Media captionNew criteria for surgery have been promised soon following a review

Obese people in Wales are being denied access to life saving treatments, a leading group of surgeons has said.

The British Obesity and Metabolic Surgery Society has said morbidly obese people have been told to gain weight to qualify for bariatric surgery.

It voiced its concerns to the Welsh government's health and social care committee.

The Welsh government said new criteria for surgery would be introduced soon following a review in 2013.

The latest government figures show 59% of adults in Wales are classed as overweight or obese.

One of those is Les Price, 44, from Brynithel, Blaenau Gwent, who is 37 stone. He said he has been turned down for surgery to reduce his weight three times.

He said just moving around is hard because of his size.

'No quick fix'

"Showering - I need assistance these days. Everything is a chore and nothing comes easy," he told BBC Radio Wales.

"I don't meet the criteria, I'm not ill enough - I don't have chronic diabetes, I don't have chronic heart disease, I don't have chronic sleep apnoea.

"If I had all of them, I could've had it - but I don't - so I don't qualify."

Mr Price is taking anti-depressant medication, and feels bariatric surgery would help him to start living again.

"I'm not looking for a quick fix," he said.

Jonathan Barry, consultant bariatric surgeon at Morriston Hospital in Swansea and a member of the British Obesity and Metabolic Surgery Society, said huge numbers of people were being referred to the unit but most do not fulfil the criteria.

"We've got a huge problem with obesity in Wales," he said.

"Seven out of 10 of the worst areas for morbid obesity in the UK are in Wales, and unfortunately we're turning away vast numbers of patients that would benefit from this type of surgery."

Health issues

He insisted that it was not simply a case of people not being obese enough to qualify for surgery, but a "rationing tool" was used to determine whether people meet the criteria.

Individuals need to have other medical related problems, including diabetes, blood pressure and blood fat problems, and a body mass index of 50% - meaning they are double the weight they should be.

He said: "Unfortunately, sometimes, the horse has bolted, it's too late for these patients, we should be getting on and operating on these patients when they're younger, when they're more fit and I feel that we're letting them down."

A Welsh government spokesperson said the best approach was for people to change their diet, exercise and lifestyle.

"Whilst bariatric surgery is an important part of the obesity pathway, the provision of such surgery cannot be considered in isolation," said the spokesperson.

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