More weight loss surgery urgently needed

By June Shannon Obesity News   |   20th Aug 2019

A special Summer School on improving healthcare for people living with overweight and obesity, will take place on Thursday, 29 August at the RCPI in Dublin.

A group of medical experts has called for an immediate increase of capacity in bariatric or weight loss surgery for people living with obesity in Ireland and said that serious inequality existed in relation to access to this essential surgery.

According to the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland (RCPI) Obesity Clinical Advisory Group, adult bariatric surgery is currently only available in 2 of the 7 Hospital Groups in Ireland and there is no capacity at all for child and adolescent bariatric surgery and no public funding for the medical management of obesity in children.

In 2018, just 12 adult bariatric surgeries per million of the population were carried out in Ireland. Meanwhile other countries are carrying out between 400 and 600 such cases per million of the population per annum.

“This is a grave deficiency in the Irish Health System in 2019,” the RCPI Group stated.

The advisory group also stated that “serious inequality in access to essential surgical services, based on ability to pay, was “clearly evident” and “unacceptable.”

“Given the personal suffering experienced by people who are obese, and the rapidly emerging health system and societal costs in treating an extensive and most distressing range of associated complications of overweight, building further capacity in bariatric surgery is both urgent and essential.”

Last year The Irish Heart Foundation reported that nine young patients with obesity died on the waiting list for bariatric or weight loss surgery in Ireland in the past five years and more than half have developed a new obesity related illness while on the list.

“Given the personal suffering experienced by people who are obese, and the rapidly emerging health system and societal costs in treating an extensive and most distressing range of associated complications of overweight, building further capacity in bariatric surgery is both urgent and essential.”

RCPI Obesity Clinical Advisory Group

The RCPI group has developed the 2019 Summary Recommendations of the HSE Obesity Management Programme, which includes a number of recommendations. These include, that surgery was indicated for anyone with a BMI of 40 or over, and for people with a BMI of 35 or over who also suffer from another serious condition such as difficult to control diabetes or progressive heart disease.

The group has also called for the establishment of a national centre for paediatric and adolescent obesity, including integrated paediatric medical management and surgical services for younger people with obesity, and for bariatric surgery to be made available in all Hospital Groups, based on medical need.

Speaking to the Irish Heart Foundation, Dr Brendan O Shea, GP and Chair of the RCPI Obesity Clinical Advisory Group said, “the bottom line is this we need to increase the amount of bariatric surgery in the Irish health system from 12 cases per million population per year, which is what it was in 2018. We are asking that that should increase to 200 cases per million population over the next two to three years.”

Dr O Shea said that bariatric surgery should be equally available to everyone who needs it irrespective of means and that it should also be available at all seven of the Hospital Groups.

He added that the RCPI Obesity Clinical Advisory Group strongly endorsed Slaintecare and called for an increase in the number of GPs, practice nurses and community services including dietetics and community nursing which would enable earlier diagnosis and more effective prevention of overweight and obesity.

The Summary Recommendations 2019 of the HSE Obesity Management Programme will be launched at a special pop up summer school on improving care for people who are overweight next week.

" This event is a global first and the timing couldn't be better. It is a great opportunity to highlight recent progress in our understanding of obesity, and to point out the folly (personal and financial) of not treating obesity as a disease."

Professor Donal O'Shea, National Clinical Lead for Obesity

The event is aimed at anyone with an interest in healthcare for people who are living with overweight or obesity. It is free of charge and open to those who work in healthcare and biosciences, voluntary organisations, journalists, government officials, and interested members of the general public.

According to the RCPI Obesity Clinical Advisory Group, the summer school aims to encourage discussion and interaction between those who have interest in, or responsibility for, providing care for people who are overweight, and those who are likely to benefit from this care.

Professor Donal O’Shea, National Clinical Lead for Obesity said, “This event is a global first and the timing couldn’t be better. It is a great opportunity to highlight recent progress in our understanding of obesity, and to point out the folly (personal and financial) of not treating obesity as a disease.”

Commenting Ms Sarah Noone, expert dietitian with the Irish Heart Foundation said, ‘This is an excellent opportunity for those interested in improving and promoting better care for people with obesity to learn about the developments in our understanding of obesity as a disease. ‘

The RCPI Summer School on improving care for people who are overweight takes place on Thursday August 29 from 2pm to 6 pm at the RCPI, 6 Kildare Street, Dublin 2. For more information please see here.

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