Obesity surgery unit will be first of its kind in NI

A specialist surgical centre for obese people is being planned for Northern Ireland.

Tuesday, 19th March 2019, 3:33 pm
Updated Tuesday, 19th March 2019, 3:36 pm
Obesity is a major public health challenge for NI

The Department of Health has said the focus will be upon Enniskillen’s South West Acute hospital as a probable location for the service.

Heading up the planning for it will be Mark Taylor, a consultant surgeon, and Alastair Campbell, the director of hospital services reform in the department.

They will report to the department by this summer.

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Richard Pengelly

The department said in a statement: “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.”

Richard Pengelly, the man in charge of the department, said obesity “is one of the most important public health issues facing Northern Ireland today”, estimating that in 2015/16 it cost Northern Ireland around £457m – up from £268m in 2009/10.

The 2017/18 Health Survey for Northern Ireland reports that 64% of the adult population are either overweight (37%) or obese (27%).

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.