The process of getting a gastric band on the NHS can be lengthy and difficult. In order to qualify for this surgery, you will have to prove that your attempts at weight loss have been exhausted by going through an official referral from your doctor as well as completing 6-12 months' worth of dieting before even being considered. Candidates could wait 18+ months.
The reality is that most people who request a gastric band (also known as also called metabolic or bariatric surgery will not be approved. Even for those lucky few who are accepted, they can expect to wait around two years for the surgery.
So why does it take so long? And what are the alternatives to NHS surgery?
In this article, we will explain everything you need to know about getting a gastric band in the UK, including the criteria for getting one on the NHS, what has during surgery, and the benefits of going private.
What is a Gastric Band?
A gastric band is a silicone ring that is placed around the stomach, creating a small pouch and reducing the amount of food that can be eaten at one time. The surgery is used as a treatment for obesity and is considered to be less invasive than other weight-loss surgeries such as gastrectomy or Roux-en-Y bypass surgery. Bariatric surgery has been around for over 30 years and is now the most common weight-loss surgery in the world.
If you are considering getting a gastric band, it is important to bear in mind that this is not a quick-fix solution and it can be very expensive. Surgery is only one part of the process and you will need to make significant lifestyle changes if you want to keep the weight off long-term.
What are the Criteria for Getting a Gastric Band on the NHS?
The NHS assesses each potential gastric band recipient on a case-by-case basis, but there are some general criteria that are usually considered when the decision is made. These include:
- Have a BMI (body mass index) of more than 40 or 35-40 with a serious condition such as heart disease, high blood pressure or type 2 diabetes).
- Prove that you have exhausted all other weight loss methods unsuccessfully.
- Attend regular post-op checkups.
- Agree to receive long-term follow-ups which will ensure you are sticking to a healthy lifestyle.
- Show that you are healthy enough to undergo the surgery safely (bariatric surgery is done under general anaesthetic).
What is the Process for Requesting a Gastric Band on the NHS:
Once you have fulfilled the above criteria you will then be eligible to request bariatric surgery. In order to do so, you will first need to be referred by your GP. Receiving this referral will usually depend on a number of factors, including your BMI and medical history.
If you are referred for surgery, you will then be asked to attend a pre-assessment appointment at the hospital. This is where you will meet with a specialist who will discuss your options and assess whether or not bariatric surgery is right for you. After that, you are likely to be assigned a six to twelve-month weight loss programme where you have to show that you are committed to making lifestyle changes.
If you manage to complete the programme successfully, you will be added to the waiting list for surgery. However, due to the high number of people who want gastric bands and the NHS's finite resources, there is no guarantee that you will actually receive surgery.
Why Aren't Gastric Bands Usually Funded by the NHS?
The main reason why gastric bands are not usually funded by the NHS is because of the high number of patients who fail during aftercare. According to recent figures, around 60% of people who have surgery for obesity regain their weight within five years. This means that the NHS would have to bear the cost of surgery for a significant number of people who then go on to have problems with their weight.
Another factor is that the requisite aftercare is expensive and difficult to manage. Patients are usually required to attend regular checkups with a dietitian and psychologist for the first two years after surgery, and this can be costly for both the NHS and the patient.
There are also more important treatment focuses within the NHS than gastric bands, such as cancer screenings and treatments. With limited funds, the NHS has to make difficult decisions about which treatments to prioritise and bariatric surgery rarely makes the cut.
What are the Non-Surgical Alternatives to Gastric Band Surgery?
If you do not meet the criteria for getting a gastric band on the NHS, or if you are waitlisted for surgery and would like to explore your options, you may want to consider some non-surgical alternatives.
There are a number of non-surgical options available that can help you lose weight safely and effectively. These options include:
- Diet and exercise programmes
- Laser therapy
- Weight loss pills
Each of these options has its own benefits and drawbacks, so it's important to do your research before making a decision.
If your weight situation has not yet reached a critical point and your BMI is still well below 35, it is not too late to make relatively simple lifestyle changes that can truly transform your health. Even if you have a lot of weight that you need to lose, there is often an effective non-surgical solution as long as you have an experienced healthcare provider assisting you in the process.
Can You Get a Gastric Band Privately?
There are many private clinics in the UK offering bariatric surgery. The main downside to this treatment option is that it can be very expensive both in terms of the operation itself and the long-term aftercare required.
One of the main benefits of getting a gastric band privately is that you can usually get surgery much sooner. This is because the NHS has a long waiting list and there is no guarantee that you will actually receive surgery.
Private clinics also have more resources than the NHS, which means that you will receive better aftercare. Aftercare is essential for ensuring that patients stick to a healthy lifestyle and do not regain their weight.
The procedure for getting a gastric band privately is also much faster than the NHS process. You will not have to attend a pre-assessment appointment or go on a weight loss programme. You will simply need to undergo a medical assessment to make sure that you are healthy enough for surgery and then you can book in for the operation.
The aftercare process is also much simpler and, again, you will be able to attend regular checkups with a dietitian and psychologist. This is important because it can be difficult to maintain your weight loss without support. Your dietician will be able to help you create a healthy diet plan that is tailored to your individual needs and your psychologist will be able to help you deal with any emotional issues that may arise as a result of your weight loss.
How Much Does Private Gastric Band Surgery Cost?
There is no set cost when it comes to getting a gastric band as a private operation. Different surgeries and surgeons have varying levels of skill and expertise so the best thing to do is speak directly to treatment providers in your area to compare services and prices.
Dr Arun Gosh deals only with non-surgical weight management strategies however he has excellent contacts who are industry-leading in bariatric surgery. Get in touch with us here and we can discuss your non-surgical options before you decide how best to proceed.
How to Choose a Private Surgery for a Gastric Band
Getting a gastric band can be a life-saving procedure, but it is important to choose the right clinic and surgeon. There are a number of things you should consider when making your decision, including:
- The experience of the surgeon
- How many procedures they have performed
- The quality of aftercare
- What type of surgery is offered
- The cost of the surgery and aftercare
- The location of the clinic
It is always advisable to have extensive discussions with any surgeons you are considering so that you can be sure that they are the right fit for you. You should also read reviews from past patients to get an idea of what the surgery is like and how well the clinic manages aftercare.
What are the Risks of Bariatric Surgery?
As with any surgery, there are risks associated with bariatric surgery. These include:
- Blood clots
- Stomach perforation
These risks are usually very low but it is important to be aware of them before you make a decision about whether or not to have surgery.
It is also important to remember that bariatric surgery is a major operation and should not be taken lightly. You need to be sure that you are committed to the long-term aftercare required in order to reduce the risk of complications. The majority of people who fail to lose weight after getting a gastric band are those who do not stick to a healthy diet and exercise regime. You cannot just have the band fitted and then forget about it – you need to take responsibility for your own health.
Obesity in the UK
According to the latest figures from the NHS, obesity is on the rise in the UK. More than 60% of adults are now classed as overweight or obese and this is costing the NHS millions of pounds every year. The number of people undergoing bariatric surgery is also on the rise, with around 7,000 people getting a gastric band in 2019 before services were affected by the pandemic. Of these, around 80% were women, though the number of men receiving the treatment is increasing year on year.
Obesity is a serious health problem and can lead to a number of diseases, including heart disease, stroke and cancer. In fact, obesity-related diseases are now the second cause of preventable deaths in the UK after smoking related-diseases. This has only occurred in the last few decades, as obesity rates have exploded.
Obesity is also responsible for billions of pounds in NHS costs each year which could be better spent on other treatments. This is one of the main reasons why the NHS does not usually fund gastric bands as a weight-loss treatment.
However, for people who are obese and have failed to lose weight using other methods, a gastric band can be a life-saving procedure. It is important to remember that the main causes of obesity in the UK are poor diet and lack of exercise and so if people just took better care of themselves then the need for bariatric surgery would be greatly reduced.
If you are considering getting a gastric band, it is important to remember that surgery is just one part of the weight loss journey. You will also need to make changes to your diet and lifestyle if you want to keep the weight off for good.
Unfortunately, the answer to "How long does it take to get a gastric band on the NHS?" is rarely what the person asking wants to hear. Due to the high demand and limited resources, the NHS has to prioritise other treatments it deems more important. However, there are many non-surgical alternatives that have frequently been shown to be very effective in helping to improve people's health. If you are looking for a way to lose weight, get in touch with us today and we can help you get started right away.