Hospital admissions for weight-loss surgery have risen by 13% in the North East in the last year, new figures have revealed.
Information by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) has shown that the number of overweight people admitted to hospital for bariatric surgery in the region increased from 728 in 2011-12 to 896 in 2012-13.
County Durham Primary Care Trust saw the biggest increase with 229 hospital admissions in the last year, an increase of 35% on the previous 12-months, which had 170 admissions.
This was followed by Gateshead PCT which had 51 bariatric surgery admissions in 2011-12, up from 40 the year before.
Experts in the North East have acknowledged that there is an obesity problem but insist that weight-loss surgery is an important factor in dealing with the problem.
Bariatric surgery is commissioned by NHS England. Christine Keen, director of commissioning for the Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear area team of NHS England, said: “The North East has some of the highest levels of obesity in the country, and these latest figures on weight-loss surgery in the region reflect the scale of the issue.
“The region’s NHS, Public Health England and local authorities are working hard to help people to lose weight through making changes to their lifestyle, such as supporting them to adopt a healthier, balanced diet and take up regular exercise.
“However, in some cases, when all other weight-loss options have been exhausted, weight-loss surgery remains the only option to help improve the health of those who are most severely affected by obesity. Without surgery, these patients face a greater risk of premature death, disease and disability brought on as a direct result of their condition.”
Despite some trusts seeing an increase in the number of bariatric surgery procedures, the HSCIC report shows that others have seen a decrease in hospital admissions. North Tyneside PCT saw one of the biggest reductions, with a 33% drop in obesity-related operations in the last year.
Director of Public Health at Gateshead Council, Carole Wood, said: “Everybody has a part to play in healthy behaviour and we have a new opportunity as part of the local authority to work directly with residents and alongside other services that influence local communities.”
The figures are part of the Hospital Episode Statistics study, which provides a breadth of information about NHS-commissioned hospital activity for inpatients. This includes trends over time for admissions, diagnoses and procedures.
In the North East the figures show a 8.5% reduction in alcohol-related hospital admissions in the last year.
For example, in 2011-12 there were 22,899 admissions attributed to alcohol and that dropped to 20,952 in 2012-13.
Colin Shevills, director of Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, said: “We welcome the small reduction in hospital admissions that are wholly attributable to alcohol – but there is still a lot of work to be done.
“We have historically high levels of alcohol harm here in the North East and it puts a huge burden on our hospitals at a time when we can least afford it. Prevention is key and the only way we can reduce the impact that alcohol is having on the health service, on our public services and on our communities is by consuming less and not treating it like any other commodity.
“We need to introduce legislation that will reduce the promotion and availability of alcohol – all of which are key drivers in consumption.”