Nearly 150 children treated for obesity in Sheffield – but gastric surgery rate plummets

Nearly 150 children have required hospital treatment for obesity in Sheffield over the last three years, but the number undergoing gastric surgery has plummeted.

Between 2016 and 2018, 149 inpatients aged 18 or under were admitted to Sheffield Children’s Hospital with a primary diagnosis of obesity, figures obtained by The Star under the Freedom of Information Act show.

Sheffield Children's Hospital

Sheffield Children's Hospital

In 2016 alone, 56 young people were treated for obesity, but that figure fell to 47 in 2017 and 46 last year.

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The number of children needing treatment for obesity remains considerably higher than, in 2013, when 34 people were admitted.

But the number undergoing weight-loss, or ‘bariatric’, surgery has fallen considerably in recent years.

In 2013, 10 children had a gastric balloon – a temporary measure which stops patients eating as much before the feel full - inserted in their stomachs and one had a gastric bubble fitted.

READ MORE: Child obesity hits highest ever level in Sheffield

But in 2016, just four children underwent surgery.

One had a gastric balloon inserted; another needed attention to an existing gastric balloon; a third had a sleeve gastrectomy, where a large part of the stomach is removed; and the fourth underwent partitioning of the stomach using staples.

In the last two years, not a single patient underwent weight-loss surgery of any form at the hospital.

READ MORE: Cuts to obesity services in Sheffield 'could put greater strain on NHS'

Dr Neil Wright, consultant paediatric endocrinologist, at Sheffield Children's Hospital, said: “At Sheffield Children's, we provide advice and guidance around diet, exercise and other treatments for children who have been diagnosed with obesity.

“In very rare cases bariatric surgery may be required, the criteria to qualify for this procedure are very stringent and this is reflected in the small number of patients who have undergone this surgery.

“Due to the holistic way in which we support children with weight problems, we are successfully addressing the cause of obesity without surgery.”

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More than a third (34.8 per cent) of year six pupils in Sheffield are classed as overweight or obese, according to the latest figures from NHS Digital.

A fifth (21.1 per cent) are considered obese, which is above the national average and that for Yorkshire and the Humber as a whole, while five per cent are classed as severely obese.

The obesity rate did fall slightly last year, from 2016/17, having risen sharply from 19.5 per cent in 2014/15.

The Star last year revealed how data from NHS Digital showed obesity was a factor on 4,140 occasions when people were admitted to hospital in Sheffield during 2016/17.

That equated to 752 admissions per 100,000 people where there was a primary or secondary diagnosis of obesity, though obesity was recorded as the main cause in only 109 of those cases - a rate of 20 per 100,000.

Primary diagnoses are those requiring weight-loss treatment, while secondary ones involve treatment for related conditions like hip problems and heart attacks.

Sheffield Council last year launched a new Food and Wellbeing Strategy to get people eating and living more healthily, which included introducing healthier food at council-owned venues and providing advice for schools and nurseries to improve youngsters’ meal options.