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Photo: Levi Meir Clancy

Gastric band on NHS – is it worth the long wait?

NHS annual cost of bariatric surgeries exceeds £45 billion and the British government is constantly increasing the budget for bariatric surgery. However, actual chances of getting the gastric band on NHS are very low and bound to a long, uncertain waiting time.

Let us take a peek into why this happens, what are the odds of getting gastric band (or any bariatric surgery, for this matter) on NHS, and what are the more imminent alternatives.

Weight loss surgery on NHS

To overall qualify for weight loss surgery on NHS, the person needs to have a BMI (body mass index) of 40 or above, OR a BMI of 35 coupled with a serious obesity-induced health condition. They must have tried several other means of weight loss (diets, exercise) unsuccessfully. They must also be fit enough for anaesthetic and surgery and agree to long-term follow-up after surgery.

Before a person is put on the surgery waiting list, they must have passed two assessments by the bariatric team. These assessments are made by bariatric professionals, such as bariatric nurses, dietitians, psychological professionals, and bariatric surgeons, with time and monitored weight loss period between the two appointments.

If a person’s BMI is 50 or over, surgery may be considered without needing to try other weight loss methods first.


What causes the long wait?

The waiting list depends on two main objectives – the funding amount and the number of candidates. This, unfortunately, makes the time impossible to predict.

Obviously, this is not NHS’s fault – the escalating cost of all drugs and instruments needed to provide everyday health care, along with defending legal claims makes the NHS constantly battle competing priorities (cancer treatment, heart surgery, etc).

Unfortunately, this is also pushing weight loss surgery further down and any change would require yearly mammoth investments which the country is unable to provide.

Is it worth the wait?

The waiting list for gastric band on NHS is anything between 3-48 months. The sad reality – most of the people requesting gastric band will not be approved and the lucky few that pass generally wait some 18+ months. The reason why the gastric band is very hesitantly funded lies in the high number of failures during aftercare.

And when it comes to self-financed options, the cheapest gastric band surgery which also offers excellent quality is definitely not in the UK.

Gastric band abroad

When it comes to gastric band surgery abroad, prices tend to be a lot lower than in the UK. This is due to the level of economy and lower cost of living in the destination country. Lower expenses for office rental and staff along with possible benefits from EU programs also play into this.

Gastric band in Europe’s „higher end“ countries such as Switzerland or France are on the level of the UK’s private clinics, whereas gastric band in Latvia or Poland remains between £2100 (non-inclusive) and £4000.

Weight Loss Riga clinic in Latvia, for example, offers an all-inclusive package of gastric sleeve (as a much safer and more efficient procedure) for £4980.

In summary, while the gastric band on NHS is definitely possible, the low funding rates and long waiting lists make seeking alternatives abroad a mindful, wise decision.


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