PRESS RELEASE: DECEMBER 2020
The UK’s leading provider of weight loss surgery has reported a sevenfold increase in enquiries following the first national lockdown.*
Transform Hospital Group (THG), which carries out the majority of the UK’s bariatric surgery, is urging the Government to improve access to these procedures through the NHS. The group fears the latest lockdown will further exacerbate the nation’s obesity crisis, after a Censuswide survey of 1000 people living with obesity found that this group felt a negative impact on their mental health (46%)**, lost motivation to lose weight (33%), and in fact gained more weight (64%) during the initial lockdown.
The call comes on the back of England’s ‘lockdown 2.0’, with people once again being urged to stay at home as much as possible and all gyms forced to close. THG believes the dramatic 600% rise in weight loss surgery enquiries could indicate that the first lockdown prompted people to re-evaluate their health and seriously consider this option.
It also follows a recent debate in Parliament on ‘Obesity and COVID-19’, introduced by Jim Shannon MP, which explored the need for a national effort to combat obesity, including calls to widen the availability of bariatric surgery. As part of this it was acknowledged by Jo Churchill MP that the UK is behind other parts of Europe when it comes to bariatric surgery referrals.
THG is pushing for the NHS to make use of the independent healthcare sector’s capacity to carry out bariatric surgery to bolster the country’s ability to address its obesity problem, given compelling evidence that being very overweight significantly increases the risk of death from COVID-19.
39% of those surveyed also said they would like to see improved access to bariatric surgery in the UK.
Tony Veverka, CEO of Transform Hospital Group, said: “These figures show that many more people in the UK were considering weight loss surgery after the first lockdown than at the beginning of the year. There is a lot of evidence to show that being overweight can increase the risk of complications for those who contract COVID-19, so perhaps the pandemic has caused people living with obesity to seriously consider their options and take action.
“It is clear that COVID-19 is going to be with us for some time, and that we must plan for the future accordingly. Bariatric surgery is often dismissed as a ‘quick fix’, however our experience shows that when combined with other measures, it can be part of a long-term solution to the escalating obesity crisis.
“For many of those who are already very overweight and facing serious risk of life-threatening complications associated with obesity, a simple diet change and exercise may not be possible, and more urgent action could be required.
“We believe improved access to bariatric surgery should be a key part of the Government’s obesity strategy, and that independent healthcare providers and the NHS should work in partnership to help deliver this.
“We urge the Government to permit the NHS to partner with independent providers in the provision of bariatric surgery to ensure a robust, multi-faceted strategy to tackle obesity.”
The survey of 1,001 people with a BMI of 30 or over was carried out between 22 and 24 September 2020.
* Figures have been taken from enquiries received in Jan – March 2020 compared to July – September 2020.
**This statistic has been calculated by combining those who answered ‘Somewhat negatively’ and ‘Very negatively’.