Health bosses in pledge on obesity

MILLIONS of pounds is set to be spent on providing specialist care for the increasing number of obese people in the region.East Anglia is home to a growing population of morbidly obese people and many are reluctant to travel long distances for expert treatment or surgery.

SUFFOLK: Millions of pounds is set to be spent on providing specialist care for the increasing number of obese people in the region.

East Anglia is home to a growing population of morbidly obese people and many are reluctant to travel long distances for expert treatment or surgery.

The closest specialist centres are at Luton and Dunstable Hospital, in Bedfordshire, and Homerton Hospital, in East London.

The Star has reported how Ipswich man Paul Mason, believed to be the world's fattest man, had to travel from his home at Ravenswood in an adapted ambulance to a centre in Sussex for expert treatment.

And health chiefs had to defend the special treatment he has been receiving after it emerged that his ongoing care and benefits had cost the taxpayer more than � 1million.

The 48-year-old is still in a specialist unit at the St Richard's Hospital awaiting lifesaving surgery and although it was believed his operation took place just over a week ago sources claim Mr Mason is still waiting to be treated.

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Under new proposals, Ipswich could yet have its own specialist centre to treat and perform surgery for bariatric patients. The East of England Specialised Commissioning Group, which purchases services on behalf of all 14 Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) in the East of England region, is looking to improve the range of care on offer to obese people.

The subject has regularly been discussed by the group's board at its meetings but a pilot programme that would have seen new centres created across the region was previously suspended.

In December it was again on the agenda and the group's chief operating officer Trevor Myers told NHS Suffolk chief executive Carole Taylor-Brown that the provision of services would be developed “not least to address clinical concerns about access from the eastern part of the region”.

The group's associate director of commissioning Carolyn Young said that when the future of the pilot programme was discussed back in 2008, it was decided that more should be done within local communities first in order to offer support services directly to seriously overweight people rather than invest in new surgery centres.

Last year an investigation showed that tackling Suffolk's obesity problems cost the NHS �10 million a year and that figure could rise rapidly in coming decades unless more is done to reverse health trends.

Mrs Young said that these figures were still in line with current spending on treating seriously overweight patients, which make up about a quarter of the adult population.

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