Saturday, 28 August 2010

Should gastric band surgery be offered on the NHS?

Granada Tonight, which is a daily regional news programme in the UK, ran a story recently about gastric band surgery being offered to obese patients on the NHS.  In effect, they don't pay directly - the cost is covered by the National Health Service, the funding for which comes out of our taxes.  The woman featured in the story lost a huge amount of weight after having the band fitted, on the NHS.  She had received hate mail from a number of people, who I assume have never had a weight problem and think that weight loss is a matter of eating less and exercising more.  

As usual, viewers were invited to chip in with their thoughts, some of which were read out at the end of the program.  The issue is still sporadically brought up on the programme's Facebook page. 

My view?  As a last resort it may be a viable option, although I think that with proper nutrition (not the same as the official line), the procedure wouldn't be necessary.  The problem, as I see it, is not how much a person eats, but what they eat.  The function of a gastric band is to reduce how much the patient eats - so if they fill their reduced stomach capacity with processed, carb-heavy fare, the benefit isn't likely to be substantial.  With animal fat, you not only get more nutrition per inch of real estate, you also tend to eat less because your body will let you know very clearly when it's had enough.  Not so with sugar. 

But in all honesty, of the money I earn, all I ever care about is what I have to spend after deductions.  The rest isn't my concern - I'd quite like my taxes to be spent on useful things, such as care for the elderly, public transport and so forth, but when I open my payslip every month, what I'm looking for is what I have to play with for the next four weeks.

However, assuming I had a say in how my taxes were spent, I'd much rather the money went towards an operation that had the potential to improve someone's quality of life than weaponry such as land mines or nukes.  Or MPs' expenses.  Or, for example, government campaigns telling us to load up on fructose and starch for health.  You get the idea. 

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