Almost £700,000 of public money has been spent providing weight-loss surgery to people in Sheffield over three years, The Star can reveal.
Figures obtained through The Star’s Your Right To Know campaign show that bariatric procedures – which include gastric band and bypass operations – cost £311,977 in 2011, and £297,192 in 2012.
So far this year £83,149 from NHS Sheffield’s public health budget has been used to fund procedures in the city.
A total of 15 applications for weight-loss operations funded by the taxpayer were made to Sheffield’s commissioning group between 2011 and 2012, four of which went ahead.
The data shows a year-on-year decline in applications, from nine in 2011 and six in 2012.
Kathryn Rogers, from Firth Park, welcomed news that requests for bariatric surgery have decreased in Sheffield and warned many still view it as a quick fix.
She dropped 10 dress sizes after funding her own gastric surgery eight years ago - but later piled back on the pounds.
The 51-year-old finally found a healthy weight by examining the deep-rooted issues behind her eating habits.
Kathryn said: “Most GPs are aware that having surgery is only part of the solution but, at present, the NHS does not appear to offer a holistic approach.
“The cost of surgery is high and the outcomes are not always positive.
“Most people now have to go through the NHS Weigh Ahead programme in Sheffield.
“The feedback I get is that it just tells people what they already know – eat smaller portions and move more.
“But in my view, morbid obesity is a complex issue.
“Nobody would actively choose to live their life like that.
“Food addiction is very real and using food to deal with difficult emotions is often the root of the problem.
“I think taxpayers’ money would be better spent giving morbidly obese people support to overcome their addiction and change their habits and behaviours.”
A spokeswoman for NHS Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group said: “There is increasing recognition both in the UK and worldwide that there is an obesity epidemic.
“Surgery for the treatment of obesity is recommended as a treatment option for people with severe obesity when certain criteria are fulfilled.
“One of these is that all appropriate non-surgical measures have been tried but have failed to achieve or maintain adequate, clinically beneficial weight loss for at least six months, but ideally for 12 to 18 months and in some cases for up to five years.
“Referrals for bariatric surgery will only be for those patients who have already undergone a local programme of weight reduction or management.”
* Bariatric surgery remains a last resort for South Yorkshire’s health organisations, despite the revelation 15,000 people were admitted to hospital due to obesity last year.
Last week The Star revealed that 14,832 people who visited hospital in Sheffield, Rotherham, Barnsley and Doncaster in 2012 were given a primary or secondary diagnosis of obesity.
Despite this Sheffield Teaching Hospitals said procedures such as gastric bands and bypasses were still considered ‘high risk’ and used only where all other options have been exhausted.
According to Yorkshire commissioning policy, Body Mass Index - which is calculated using someone’s weight and height - is one of the most common indicators used by doctors when assessing a person’s eligibility for procedures.
Only people with a Body Mass Index greater than 50 kg/m² or 45kg/m² with a health condition would be considered for an operation. In a 5ft 6in person, a BMI of 30kg/m² is equivalent to 13st 2lb.
Cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and severe hypertension and other illnesses can increase a person’s chance.