Proposals for Northern Ireland’s first health service bariatric surgery centre are to be taken forward by a service planning group appointed by the Department of Health.
The assessment will focus on South West Acute Hospital in Enniskillen as the location for the proposed service.
The service planning group will be jointly headed by consultant surgeon Mark Taylor and Alastair Campbell, Director of Hospital Services Reform in the Department.
The management of obesity through appropriate lifestyle measures such as a healthy diet and exercise remains the best approach for dealing with childhood and adult obesity. However, there has been growing evidence in recent years that in some cases bariatric - weight loss - surgery can be used as an effective treatment for obese adults who have been diagnosed with other health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, and are considered clinically appropriate for treatment.
Weight loss surgery has not been provided within Northern Ireland’s health service, although a small number of patients have been funded for the treatment in Great Britain.
In appropriate cases, bariatric surgery can lead to significant weight loss and help improve, or even reverse, some obesity-related conditions, such as type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure.
However, it's a major operation which also requires significant long term lifestyle changes and will only be available to patients meeting specific criteria.
Department of Health Permanent Secretary Richard Pengelly said: “Today’s announcement is a clear signal of intent from the Department.
“Establishing regional centres of excellence is a central pillar of our transformation programme for health and social care.
“Obesity is one of the most important public health issues facing Northern Ireland today. Being obese can reduce life expectancy by up to nine years and increase the risk of a range of health conditions including: heart disease and stroke; type 2 diabetes; some cancers, including postmenopausal breast cancer; mental health issues such as depression; and complications in pregnancy.
“There is also a significant financial impact for society, with the total estimated direct and indirect costs in Northern Ireland of overweight and obesity in 2015/16 estimated at around £457 million. This is a significant increase from the 2009/10 estimate of £268 million.”
The service planning group will include speciality clinicians and representatives of different HSC organisations. Its immediate task is to assess population need based on NICE guidance, develop a bariatric service specification, and examine the capability of the South West Acute Hospital to deliver the service.
A report with options and recommendations for a regional bariatric service will then be presented to the Department by this summer.
Notes to editors:
- The 2017/18 Health Survey for Northern Ireland reports that 64% of the adult population are either overweight (37%) or obese (27%). Obesity levels have shown an upward trend from the 23% recorded in 2010/11.The survey also reports that 26% of children (aged 2-15 years of age) are classed as either overweight (18%) or obese (9%). Since 2010/11 the proportion of children classed as overweight or obese has remained at similar levels.
- Mark Taylor is a consultant in general and hepatobiliary (liver, pancreas and gallbladder) surgery. He was a member of the panel that produced the landmark Bengoa report on transformation, published in October 2016.
- There are several types of weight loss surgery. The most common types are: gastric band – a band is placed around the stomach, so recipients don't need to eat as much to feel full; gastric bypass – the top part of the stomach is joined to the small intestine, so recipients feel fuller sooner and don't absorb as many calories from food; sleeve gastrectomy – some of the stomach is removed, so recipients can't eat as much as before and feel full sooner.
- The Department of Health leads on the cross-departmental framework to prevent overweight and obesity, known as A Fitter Future for All. The latest update report on this strategy is available online
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