Leading doctors have hit out at the postcode lottery obese patients face as weight loss programmes are cut.
The Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) said its members have raised concerns that intensive weight management services are not being commissioned in some parts of the country.
Surgeons are warning that the issue is becoming a “big problem” after noticing a lack of provision in some areas, an RCS spokeswoman said.
The Society has highlighted the Lighten Up programme in North Tyneside, which was set up to help people lose weight and achieve a heathy lifestyle by looking at what they eat, but which will lose its funding from April.
The RCS said a “postcode lottery” is denying some obese patients access to “vital treatment” because the weight loss programmes are a prerequisite to bariatric surgery.
NHS officials recommend that obese patients have tried all non-invasive treatment options before surgery.
The RCS said that all bariatric surgical patients are required to get support from weight management services, called tier 3 support, which helps them control their diet post-surgery.
Problems with commissioning weight management services have led to a fall in bariatric procedures, the RCS said, citing recent NHS statistics which show a 10% fall in bariatric surgeries between April 2012 and March last year.
“To hear that a postcode lottery is emerging in UK weight management provision is deeply worrying,” said RCS president Professor Norman Williams.
“The fact that access to surgery is blocked because of this means the NHS is simply storing up problems for later and compromising patient care.
“We hope to work with clinical commissioning groups to reduce this sort of variation and drive up standards of patient care across the UK.”
North Tyneside Council said yesterday that it was working to improve services by delivering them in a different way.
A spokesperson for North Tyneside Council said: “People will still be able to access services to help them address excess weight.
“We are working with our partners in North Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group to help us achieve the best provision for the people of the borough.”
Richard Welbourn, president of the British Obesity and Metabolic Surgery Society, also raised concerns about patients being denied access to treatment due to weight assessment and management clinics not being commissioned, saying that it could end up costing the NHS more in the long run.
A spokesperson for NHS North Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group said: “NHS North Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group as new GP commissioners are working with North Tyneside Council to review how each organisation commissions appropriate health services to help people with weight management issues.
“Discussions are ongoing with our partners to commission the right level of service to address the needs of the local patients.
“There are no plans currently to reduce the level of provision in the area of weight management programmes.”