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Thursday, 24 April 2014

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Obese Cumbrian mum offered no medical help with weight loss, she says

A mother was not offered any medical help after being told she was obese and her health was in danger.

Georgina Freeman, of Stanwix, Carlisle, was ordered to lose weight after she visited her doctor fearing she was having a stroke.

Weighing nearly 17-and-a-half stone, her GP told her she was obese according to her Body Mass Index (BMI) and her blood pressure was high.

But she says she was never given the chance to access any weight management programmes to help her fight the flab.

It comes after shock statistics revealed Cumbria has the highest rates of obesity and overweight people in England.

The Cumberland News has also learned that there are currently no weight management programmes available in Cumbria.

It means obese and overweight patients have to travel to Northumberland or Liverpool to access the programmes, which is a prerequisite to weight loss surgery.

Georgina, 44, said: “There was no mention of weight management [programmes] at the time and looking back it would have helped me.

“In my mind I knew I had to lose weight anyway because I realised I was big.”

She managed to shed six-and-a-half stone and drop seven dress sizes after joining a Slimming World group and now leads an active and healthy lifestyle.

But experts warn that many patients are being denied access to weight loss, or bariatric, treatment because of a “postcode lottery”.

The Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) says the number of bariatric procedures is plummeting as obesity rates continue to soar.

And the situation will only worsen because of problems with commissioning weight management programmes in some areas.

The importance of tackling that has been highlighted by figures released this week that reveal more than three-quarters of people in Cumbria are classed as overweight or obese, according to figures released this week.

Overall, 63.8 per cent of adults in England are overweight or obese, with a BMI of 25 or over.

The worst area in Cumbria was Copeland, with 75.9 per cent of people overweight or obese. In Carlisle, 68.4 per cent were overweight, 68.8 per cent in Eden and 66.5 per cent in Allerdale.

Prof Norman Williams, president of the RCS, said: “To hear that a postcode lottery is emerging in UK weight management provision is deeply worrying.

“The fact that access to surgery is blocked because of this means the NHS is simply storing up problems for later and compromising patient care.”

There have been calls for Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) to fund weight management schemes. It comes as funding for the programmes is set to be scrapped in North Tyneside from April.

NHS Cumbria CCG said it commissions a weight loss management programme prior to bariatric surgery from Aintree University Hospitals NHS Trust and Northumbria Healthcare NHS Trust.

A spokeswoman said bariatric surgery and follow up now comes under “specialised commissioning”, which means it is the responsibility of the local NHS England Area Team.

NHS England said Cumbria County Council’s public health department is responsible for weight management programmes.

Dr Jane Rossini, Cumbria and Lancashire centre director at Public Health England, called on local councils to tackle the problem.

She said: “There is no silver bullet to reducing obesity. It is an issue that requires action at national, local, family and individual level.

“Local authorities are ideally placed to develop co-ordinated action across their departments, services and partner organisations to tackle overweight and obesity in the local population.”

Cumbria County Council insists there is help available.

A spokesman for the public health team said: “Cumbria has a programme called COOL4Life which is designed to help children who may need support with their families to become more active and eat healthier.

“There is also a dietetics service which GPs can refer adults to if they feel this will benefit their weight loss.

“For those people who are very overweight, the NHS provides bariatric surgery.

“This includes support to lose weight through natural means before an assessment is made as to whether surgery is appropriate.”

Meanwhile, national charity Kidney Research UK warns that an “obesity epidemic” could leave the UK in the grip of a kidney health crisis in future.

Sandra Currie, the charity’s chief executive officer, said: “Should obesity levels continue to rise, this could have a devastating effect on the number of people being diagnosed with kidney disease, along with the annual cost of kidney disease to the NHS in England which is estimated to be £1.45bn.”

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