Providing surgical treatment for people who are morbidly obese could save British taxpayer-funded health services and the wider economy hundreds of millions of pounds a year, leading surgeons said on Wednesday.
In an economic impact assessment of obesity surgery, the Royal College of Surgeons and the National Obesity Forum said the financial toll of unemployment, welfare payments, hospital costs and prescriptions caused by obesity could be cut drastically if more patients had weight-loss surgery.
The report was written by an independent consultancy called the Office of Health Economics and funded by the health firms Allergan and Covidien, both of whom make medical equipment used in weight-loss, or so-called bariatric, surgery.
Bariatric surgery is performed on people who are dangerously obese, as a way of trying to help them lose weight. The idea is to reduce the size of the stomach, either with a gastric band or a gastric bypass that re-routes the small intestines to a small stomach pouch, or by removing a portion of the stomach.
Critics of weight-loss surgery say its long-term risks are largely unknown, particularly in children, and argue it should be a last resort for morbidly obese people who have failed to lose weight by changing their diet and lifestyle.