Bristol

Weight-loss surgery at Southmead Hospital triples

Overweight man
Image caption One hundred people had weight-loss surgery at Southmead Hospital in 2009

The number of operations to tackle obesity at a Bristol hospital has tripled in the past three years.

Southmead Hospital is a regional centre for gastric bands and stomach stapling operations.

Figures obtained by the BBC show that 100 people had weight-loss surgery in 2009, up from 31 in 2006.

Surgeon Justin Morgan said the figures were high in part because the operations are relatively new.

"The American obesity epidemic has started a bit earlier than us but we are hot on their heels," he said.

"The population is getting heavier all the time.

"There are a lot of people around who are very very overweight and for whom all conventional treatment has failed.

"Society's spending a huge amounts of money on people who are overweight now because of all the health problems they have.

"Weight-loss surgery is not about cosmetic surgery but resolving people's illnesses and getting back to normal health which saves the health service money, he added.

Tam Fry, from the National Obesity Forum, said: "We have to do what we can for very overweight people.

"The prevention aspect must now be upped so that in the future we don't have this problem.

"Justin's right in that we are playing catch up because we've always had a lot of very overweight people.

"Until recently we've not had the number of surgeons that can perform the operation."

'Two choices'

Sharon Bates, a nurse from Bristol, had a gastric band fitted in Lyon, France, in 2000.

She said: "I was a size 32... I really didn't want to be fat any more, I would rather have been dead and there wasn't that much difference in my opinion.

"Life was becoming very difficult and at 45 when you can't walk up the stairs, you can't do certain things, you're working but it's becoming harder and harder.

"I just felt I had two choices, end it or do something."

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