More than 2m need weight loss op resaerches say in the Belfast Telegraph

Operations for weight loss - also called bariatric surgery - such as the fitting of a gastric band or gastric bypass surgery, is currently available on the NHS to treat those with potentially life-threatening obesity.

Some 8,000 people receive the treatment each year, but researchers from Imperial College London say more than 5% of adults would qualify, more than 2.1 million people.

Their study, published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, found that despite evidence of the cost-effectiveness of weight loss surgery, surgery rates were estimated to be a third of the NHS's benchmark rate.

The number of people eligible for surgery "far exceeds" the estimated number of people having procedures.

Researchers, who examined the health of nearly 9,500 people, acknowledged the huge financial implications for the NHS if treatments were carried out in such greater numbers.

But they said more investment may be necessary to meet a growing need for the procedures.

According to NHS guidelines, weight loss surgery may be offered to those whose morbid obesity could kill them, or to people who are morbidly obese and who have a serious condition such as type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure that could be improved if they lost weight.

The study found that those meeting the criteria for bariatric surgery were more likely to be women, retired with lower educational qualifications and of lower socio-economic status.

It said: "Recent hospital episode statistic data show surgery rates from 2003/4 to 2009/10 have risen year on year in England; with rates highest in women and those aged 40-54 years.

"However, service delivery rates still fall significantly below the level needed to support all those who could potentially benefit."

Several factors contributed to surgery rates being so low, the study found.

Those with greatest need for surgery were more often in the lowest socio-economic groups, who are least likely to use healthcare services.

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Gastricband aftercare clinics in the UK and
Ireland 2018 available for all patients