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Salad v Surgery: Treating Type 2 Diabetes

Could an operation be the best way to treat Type 2 Diabetes - and also save the NHS millions of pounds?

In June of this year, presenter of Radio 4's Woman's Hour, Jenni Murray, underwent an operation which removed 75 per cent of her stomach. A few months later, she has lost over 4 stones in weight and her symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes have gone into remission.

Once a purely cosmetic procedure, bariatric surgery procedures like this have been described as the greatest advance in the history of treatment of Type 2 diabetes - so why aren't more patients being treated in this way?

The National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE), which provides guidance and advice to the NHS, has said obese patients with diabetes should be rapidly assessed for surgery - but that's yet to happen.

The treatment has been met with fierce criticism, especially from the tabloid press, which declared it undeserved: fat people should just stop eating instead of using up valuable resources to pay for vanity operations.

Furthermore, Britain's leading diabetes charity, Diabetes UK, has also warned of the 'serious risks' posed by the procedure - even though the NHS has itself stated it is not more risky than a routine gall bladder operation.

The irony here is that increasing the number of bariatric procedures could actually save the NHS millions of pounds, as patients are weaned off costly diabetes drugs - the NHS currently spends around £12bn a year treating the disease.

With round 700 people diagnosed with diabetes in Britain every day, are we letting misguided morality get in the way of an opportunity to save money - and lives?


Jenni Murray, presenter Radio 4's Woman's Hour

Simon O'Neill - Director of Health Intelligence, Diabetes UK

Prof Roy Taylor, Professor of Medicine and Metabolism, Newcastle University

Prof Francesco Rubino, Professor of Metabolic Surgery, King's College Hospital

Prof Mark Baker, Director of the Centre for Clinical Practice, NICE

Mr Andrew Mitchell, Consultant General Surgeon, Darlington Memorial Hospital

Presenter: Adrian Goldberg
Producer: Richard Fenton-Smith

Note: A version of this programme was first broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in June, 2014.

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