Weight loss surgery isn’t just one type of operation – there are five types of procedure performed in the UK, and some of these are more common than others. Some have a higher risk of side effects and require longer in hospital – others are simply not as effective as others.
The first port of call if you’re considering opting for weight loss surgery is your GP or health care provider, who will be able to advise you whether you’re eligible for the surgery – and if you are able to get it funded by the NHS.
Criteria for Weight Loss Surgery
The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) have a detailed list of guidelines about weight loss surgery, which you can read on their website. In summary, these are:
- A BMI of over 40 and a history of failed weight loss attempts which may or may not include prescribed weight loss medication
- A BMI of over 50 – no need to demonstrate that weight loss methods have failed.
- A BMI of 35-40 along with Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnoea, and a history of failure with other methods of weight loss.
So what are the different types of weight loss surgery?
A gastric band is an adjustable collar that’s fitted around the stomach, with what’s called an adjustment port just under the skin on your belly. The collar will have to be adjusted regularly – it’s done by injecting a saline solution through the port. This is the quickest, safest and most popular option for weight loss surgery. There’s less time off work needed and less vitamins and supplements are needed after the operation. It can need a lot of tweaking to get the size of the band right, and is the most likely of all the operations to need further surgery.
RNY Gastric bypass
This is where a new pouch is made from the existing stomach, and the intestine is divided and joined to it, which bypasses some of the intestine. It results in very fast weight loss, although it can lead to side effects if patients eat high fat or sugar foods. The surgery is more risky than for a gastric band, there’s more chance of DVT and other complications, and anyone who has this type of weight loss surgery will need to supplement their diet with vitamins and minerals afterwards.
This operation isn’t performed as much as the others – it involves creating a new sausage shaped stomach along with an intestinal bypass. It can give good weight loss results and there’s more room for food in the stomach than some of the other procedures. Anyone who has this operation will need to take vitamin and mineral supplements and change their diet substantially to include a lot of protein. The operation takes longer than the other procedures and it can lead to bowel problems like constipation.
This procedure involves making a new sausage shaped stomach but without any intestinal bypass. It can be carried out as part of another operation, is quick to carry out and needs less hospital time. Not as effective with the amount of weight loss in some cases.
In this procedure, a balloon is inserted into the stomach and then inflated. It’s popular as it’s easy and cheap, but it can cause sickness, the balloon might burst, and the weight can go back on after the balloon is removed.
Where to Get Weight Loss Surgery
Weight loss surgery is expensive – having a gastric band fitted privately is likely to cost between £4,000 and £8,000 and a gastric bypass can cost you up to £15,000. You could try to get the surgery on the NHS, or have it privately in the UK or abroad. It’s quicker to opt for a private procedure – and not always advisable to have the surgery carried out abroad unless you have done extensive research.
Getting Weight Loss Surgery on the NHS
If you fit the criteria, contact your local Primary Care Trust and ask for a copy of the local funding protocols.
Make an appointment to see your GP to discuss applying for funding for weight loss surgery.
Make a list of the negative impacts that your weight has on your life, so that you can discuss them with your GP. This will give him or her extra information for your application for funding.
Take the list of funding protocols with you to your GP appointment. Discuss the type of weight loss surgery you would prefer. It’s up to your GP to make the case to the PCT on your behalf. It’s your right to see a copy of any correspondence or applications made to the PCT.
If your GP won’t help, you can ask to see another one in the same practice or even try transferring to another GP practice but if you go down this route, ask the Practice Manager about previous funding applications for weight loss surgery, and if they have been successful.