How cost-effective are gastric bands?

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SHOULD the taxpayer pay for a ‘cannibal killer’s’ gastric band? (Gazette, May 30).

No doubt the immediate, understandable, emotional response is: ‘We shouldn’t be spending our money on people like this.’

However, given the NHS Constitution provides that morbidly obese patients have a legal right to be assessed for weight loss surgery, the real question here is whether gastric bands are a cost-effective way of dealing with obesity.

At the present time one in four adults in this country is obese. The situation was recently highlighted by Tim Straughan, chief executive of the NHS Information Centre: ‘Obesity poses major health risks by potentially increasing the likelihood of such diseases as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes and a range of other, often life-threatening conditions.’

Obesity-associated healthcare costs are now estimated at £7.2 billion a year. While the Government attempts to promote awareness of the risks in the hope of halting the rapid rise in the numbers of obese adults and children, once a person has become morbidly obese with a BMI of 40 the only effective cure is drastic medical intervention such as a gastric band.

According to David Haslam, of the National Obesity Forum: ‘Bariatric surgery is among the most clinically-effective and cost-effective specialities in any field of medicine, preventing premature death and transforming lives, while saving vast amounts of money for the NHS.’

However much we resent spending money on the likes of Graham Fisher, the reality is that far from wasting taxpayers’ money, the NHS is saving money by performing these operations. Perhaps we should also be asking why, in a controlled environment like Broadmoor, Graham Fisher was allowed to get morbidly obese in the first place.

GREG SZANTO

Stuart Avenue