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Weight loss surgery sold as a quick fix for obesity

Weight loss surgery is being sold as a quick fix option to obesity surgeons warn.Weight loss surgery sold as a quick fix for obesityFirms are using questionable selling techniques including limited period offers, potentially misleading before-and-after photos and celebrity ‘success stories’ to attract clients.

Too often patients are not being properly informed of the risks of gastric band and gastric bypass surgery – which are major operations – according to a report Obesity surgery ‘no quick fix’, NCEPOD calls for improvements to pre-surgery counselling published by the National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death (NCEPOD), a charity.

Yet almost a fifth of patients have to be re-admitted to hospital because of complications with what is known as bariatric surgery, and seven per cent require a second operation to sort out problems.

Ian Martin, co-author of the study, said firms were “stressing the benefits but not balancing that with some of the risks”.

“They are suggesting these operations are a quick fix rather than part of a long term commitment to a healthier lifestyle.”

The report found private firms touting for business regularly used “potentially misleading” before-and-after pictures where patients had shed large amounts of weight.

Mr Martin, a facial surgeon, said: “They show lots of pictures of people who were very big becoming ideally slim.  But to get these ideal figures patients will usually require further cosmetic procedures, for example to remove excess skin.”

Mr Martin said advertising websites sometimes contained pictures “of people like Fern Britton, who quite often give their success stories as well”.  The television presenter had a gastic band operation six years ago, but only admitted it two years later.

The report warned: “The use of celebrities in advertising .. could possibly impart a false sense of security.”

Some firms used irresponsible inducements, included a prize draw to win back the cost of surgery.

They also put patients under “undue financial pressure” to sign up, such as cut-off dates for deals and clauses that meant patients could not get their deposit back if they decided against an operation.

Mr Martin said all this mattered because it risked giving bariatric surgery “a bad name”.  He said: “We risk undermining what’s a very very valuable treatment.”

The prospect of the report appears to have spurred Independent Healthcare Advisory Services, which represents private healthcare providers, into action. The organisation released updated guidelines “to protect patients from poor or unsafe practice”.

Mr Martin described the move as “encouraging”, saying: “We hope that the updated guidelines by the IHAS will have a real impact in improving standards of care received by patients in the private sector.”

Professor Norman Williams, president of the Royal College of Surgeons, said: “Bariatric surgery is not a quick fix.  It has been proven to be an incredibly successful and cost-effective treatment for morbid obesity and the many serious conditions associated with it.”

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