Questions and Answers
Q. How easy is it to receive a Gastric Band operation on the NHS ?
A. Not very easy. You must first receive a referal from you doctor. After that there is a lengthy procedure to follow.
Q. What are the criteria for a referal ?
A. You must be over 18 years of age. You must have a BMI of over 35. If you have some other condition such as type 2 diabetes this will further your cause (although if you are otherwise healthy it is still worth persisting as obesity is a condition in itself). You must be willing to undertake other methods of weight loss first, this is very important, your doctor will want you to demonstrate you are serious about losing weight. Even though I know if you have reached the point of considering surgery you will have tried countless diets it is still necessary to respect the doctor's position. Ultimately it must be recognised that he has the power in this situation.
Q. What will the doctor require of me ?
A. If he says you must have an appointment with a dietician (and he will say that !) , then take the appointment. If he says you must go on a course, then go on the course. Do whatever the doctor says. Every positive step you take is placing a little more power in your hands. The further down the road you get, the harder it will become to reject you for surgery. Even though you will probably know more about dieting than the lecturers on any of the courses, become involved, show enthusiasm. The thing is a lot of obstacles will be placed in your way. Knock them down one by one. Don't give anyone the opportunity to reject your application. It still doesn't mean you have to go ahead with the surgery but you need to get to the place where it is you making the decision, not some panel of experts.
Q. If I do receive a referal to see a dietician how long will it be until I receive the gastric surgery ?
A. Maybe as long as a year. It is a lengthy process of dieticians and courses and various doctors. Don't demonstrate tunnel vision by saying you want weight loss surgery and nothing else. That won't go down well. You almost have to give the impression that it's the last thing that you want. I know it sounds ridiculous but that's the way it is. If you demonstrate persistance and commitment then at some point the prospect of weight loss surgery will be raised.
Q. Why can't things be more simple ?
A. Because life doesn't work like that.
Q. Is it expensive to have a gastric band fitted privately ?
A. Yes, currently around £6000 in the UK. It is possible to have the operation cheaper by travelling to mainland Europe, there are by all acounts a number of excellent clinics there where the prices can be almost half of the price in the UK. But it is worth advising caution if you decide to opt for this form of Gastric Band Tourism. Carry out your research into the clinics with great care, take referances if possible and ask a lot of questions, such as what is the after care service like? what happens if something goes wrong ? etc. etc.
Q. Is it preferable to have a gastric band on the NHS ?
A. I believe it is. Although I'm somewhat cynical about the lengthy process, I suppose it does provide an education and a background understanding of the benefits and risks involved which you do not get if you undertake the procedure privately.The number of meetings and courses you are required to attend are given by well informed and well intentioned professionals and you will come out with a far greater depth of knowledge than you would if you undertook the operation privately. That's my opinion anyway.
Q. Who are you to be giving all this advice ?
A. Me ? I'm nobody. Not a doctor, an expert or a patient ! My girlfriend went through the whole gastric band NHS procedure and I lived it with her. The tears, the setbacks, the optimism, everything. She really wanted the operation, so I supported her. She has now had the surgery and is losing weight and looking beautiful. But then she looked beautiful before so from my point of view nothing has changed. From her point of view however it has been very worthwhile. There were around 20 people who attended the course my girlfriend had to go on, and I believe that only she and one other were accepted for surgery. all the others were rejected for some reason, and it was always their fault. They hadn't attended all the meetings or they hadn't met with a dietician or they hadn't shown commitment by losing a set percentage of weight.. or whatever. My girlfriend did everything that was asked of her and at no point gave them any reason to reject her. From initially seeing her doctor to having the surgery took over a year. Incidentally, other than being overweight she had no other health problems.
Q. Where can I find expert advice and support about the Gastric Band.
A. There is an organisation called BOSPA which stands for the British Obesity Patient Surgery Association who offer an excellent level of support. They are based in Taunton and their telephone number is 08456 020446. In addition to the gastric band they offer information and support on other forms of weight loss surgery.
Q. What are the other surgical weight loss options and what are the differences between them.
A. The main forms of weight loss surgery are :
Gastric Band : A reversable procedure which involves putting an adjustable band around the top of the stomach to restrict the need for food intake. Gastric banding surgery is by far the most well known form of weight loss surgery in the UK, possibly due to the publicity created by well known celebrities such as Anne Diamond , Fern Britton and Vanessa Feltz who have had the operation, and look great.
Gastric Bypass : This is a non reversable operation and is a larger procedure than the gastric band. Generally speaking weight loss is quicker with the gastric bypass and it is considered to be a helpful treatment for certain forms of diabetes.
Gastric Balloon : A non surgical procedure which involves inserting and then inflating a balloon in to the stomach. It is an effective form of weight control but is only short term as the balloon can only be left in place for 6 months.
Hypnotic Gastric Band : A great idea if it works. Involves the use of hypnotherapy to give a sugestion to the patient that a gastric band has been fitted.
There are other forms of weight loss surgery procedures such as the gastric sleeve the duodenal switch and a number of others. Some forms of weight loss surgery are more suited to certain people than others. So the advice as always is to see your doctor and see what he or she recommends. It is always good to have as much support as possible from your doctor as well as from your family and friends.
Further information on the above can be obtained from your doctor or the previously mentioned BOSPA support organisation. BUPA also has an excellent amount of weight loss surgery information on it's website. Whichever form of weight loss surgery (if any) you intend to pursue, may all the luck in the world accompany you on your journey.