Obese people may be deliberately trying to put on even more weight in order to qualify for weight-loss surgery on the NHS, it has been claimed.
Demand for surgery to reduce the size of the stomach has soared in some areas, meaning only those patients who are grossly overweight can be considered.
Guidelines say that anyone who has a Body Mass Index – calculated by dividing weight by height squared in kilos and metres – of more than 40 qualifies for weight-loss surgery on the NHS if they have failed to lose weight in other ways.
But NHS managers in Portsmouth say there are so many chronically obese patients they can only operate on people whose BMI is more than 60, meaning a man who is 5ft 9in tall would have to weigh 29 stone to qualify.
The weight-loss operation – known as bariatric surgery – involves placing a balloon inside the stomach and filling it slightly to reduce the amount of food it can hold, or placing a band around the top of the stomach to achieve the same thing.
The surgery is extremely effective at helping chronically obese people lose weight, reducing their chances of having a fatal heart attack or stroke.
Doctors said it is ‘ridiculous’ that people are trying to put on even more weight in order to hit the guideline BMI for surgery.
Dr Colin Waine, chairman of the National Obesity Forum, said: “You’ll have the ridiculous position of people who are already big eating more to get themselves within the guidelines.”
Dr Sally Nelson, medical advisor for NHS South Central, which covers Portsmouth, said the level of demand for bariatric surgery had exceeded estimations. “Our surgeons simply do not have the capacity to operate on every morbidly obese person.
“We are aware of the danger that patients will put on more weight. We would like to be able to offer the surgery to more people than is currently possible.”