Spire calls for health insurers to fund weight loss surgery

January 2009

Leading private hospital group Spire Healthcare, is calling on private medical insurers to offer gastric banding and gastric bypass operations as a safe and effective treatment for morbidly obese patients.
 
Spire’s Clinical Services Director, Dr Jean-Jacques de Gorter, has written to the leading health insurance providers urging them to make the treatments available to patients covered under PMI policies.
 
“There are a growing number of patients being treated with weight-loss surgery and currently they are either self funded or paid for by the NHS. We believe that the private healthcare industry is missing an opportunity to differentiate itself by extending PMI cover to include funding of weight loss surgery,” he said.
 
“This would have the double benefit of both extending the value of PMI to insured patients and helping manage the risk of excessive healthcare costs arising from the consequences of obesity.”
 
Research shows that not only does this type of surgery lead to physical and mental health gain but it can also cure type II diabetes and reduce the risk of related conditions like stroke, cardiovascular disease and cancer.
 
One of the world’s leading gastric surgeons, Mr Paul Super, of Spire Parkway Hospital says gastric banding can help up to a third of those in the UK with early onset type II diabetes.
 
In studies co-authored by Mr Super, more than a third of those with early onset diabetes and a BMI of 35+ - who lost 35% of their excess Body Mass Index as a result of gastric band surgery – had no symptoms within a year of their operation. The results were even more compelling in leaner patients with a BMI of between 30 and 40 with 76% of patients becoming symptom free.
 
Obesity and type II diabetes are two of the greatest health issues facing the UK today.  A fifth of all men and a quarter of women and pre-school children are now obese and a further 24 million adults are overweight.  More than 2.3 million people in Britain have diabetes with 500,000 more suspected of suffering from the condition without realising it.
 
“We know now that weight control is the most significant factor in the management of type II diabetes in terms of its ability to reduce the incidence and mortality of this condition. The greater the degree of weight loss, the greater the control over blood glucose levels,” said Mr Super.
 
Gastric band surgery is the most popular form of weight-loss surgery and the safest, with up to 300,000 band placement performed to date worldwide.  An inflatable silicon band is placed around the upper part of the stomach to create a much smaller ‘pouch’ with a narrow opening to the rest of the stomach, significantly restricting the amount of food a patient can eat before they feel full.  The band is adjusted over time to suit the patient’s progress or removed altogether if necessary.

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