Berkshire East Primary Care Trust had refused on four separate occasions to fund gastric bypass surgery for Hazel Kent when her weight increased massively after a privately-funded gastric band had to be removed several years ago because of medical complications.
The PCT had refused to fund the (approximately) £15,000 hoped-for solution to the 40-year old’s weight problem, allegedly because her body mass index (BMI) was too low. Although the NICE Guideline on obesity (CG43) states that people with a BMI over 40, or between 35 and 40 if they also have a condition such as diabetes or hypertension, are eligible for surgery, a recent report from the Office of Health Economics, entitled Shedding the Pounds, reveals that half of PCTs use only “elements” of the NICE guideline, while one in ten ignore it completely. Berkshire East reputedly funds the surgery only for those with a BMI in excess of 50.
Although the funding of bariatric surgery is deeply controversial, the Royal College of Surgeons has reported that, with the financial toll of unemployment, housing and incapacity benefit, hospital admissions and prescriptions, the direct cost of obesity and related illnesses to the NHS is £4.3 billion per year and to the wider economy millions more.
The PCT backed down on their refusal to fund when Mrs Kent brought proceedings for judicial review.