Wales politics

Obesity surgery 'seeing 1,000 patients in 18 months'

A leading surgeon operating on obese patients says he has seen young people so overweight during his career that they have not left home in eight years.

Jonathan Barry's team at Morriston Hospital in Swansea has had 1,000 referrals in 18 months.

Dealing with obesity is costing the NHS in Wales an estimated £73m a year.

Plaid Cymru AM Lindsay Whittle claimed some parents were "killing their own children with kindness" by not tackling their intake of food.

Up to 90 morbidly obese patients a year undergo operations at the Welsh Institute of Metabolic and Obesity Surgery at Morriston to limit the capacity of their stomachs, or receive other treatment to reduce the number of calories they absorb.

'Cost benefit'

Consultant bariatric surgeon Jonathan Barry told BBC Wales' Sunday Politics programme: "A lot of them are cured of their diabetes and obviously there's a cost benefit to that and after two-and-a-half years there's a significant saving.

"We know that this is an expensive disease that isn't going away."

He added: "These people do have to be brave just to go outside the front door. I think a lot of my patients will tell me they feel quite embarrassed going anywhere and this just reinforces the problem.

"We have seen patients over the years, young people, who haven't left home for eight or nine years."

A study for the Welsh government last year estimated obesity was costing the NHS in Wales £73m pounds a year, but the Swansea University research warned the true costs could be higher.

A World Health Organisation survey put Wales fourth out of 39 nations for overweight or obese 15 year olds - behind only the United States, Greece and Canada.

In his annual report, Wales' chief medical officer Dr Tony Jewell said the growth in overweight and obesity has slowed but there is still much to do.

He questioned the sponsorship of big sports events, such as the Olympics, by fast food brands.

Warning parents

Earlier this month in the Welsh assembly, Plaid Cymru AM Lindsay Whittle suggested drastic action might be needed.

"I don't wish to take children into care but what's happening is that some parents are killing their own children with kindness and, I'm sure they don't mean to but that is actually what's happening," he said.

"We have to send a warning to these parents that these children, in fact, will die even, perhaps, during the parents' lifetime and that's not a pleasant situation for any parent to be in, and die through sheer obesity. We really need to send this warning."

The Welsh government said the children should be with their families where possible and that a range of services was available to help them.

"While the safety of children and young people is paramount, only where a child is at risk is there a role for state intervention," a spokeswoman said.

"The Welsh government is committed to reducing obesity in Wales by encouraging and supporting individuals to make healthier lifestyle choices, including having a healthier diet and being more physically active."

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