TWO “supercentres” to tackle Merseyside’s obesity epidemic have opened in the region’s hospitals.
The facilities at Aintree University and the Countess of Chester hospitals will perform nearly 1,000 gastric band and gastric bypass surgeries a year after opening in January.
Phoenix Health – the company behind the centres – and its director, Professor David Kerrigan, said the surgery is “cost-effective” and vital to tackling obesity.
Crosby-born Prof Kerrigan, who studied medicine at the University of Liverpool, told the Post: “The scale of the obesity challenge we face in this country and in Merseyside is staggering. Even though these centres are the biggest in the country, we will only be able to treat one in 300 obese patients who would be eligible for surgery.
“Obviously we need to do as much as we can to stop people becoming overweight initially, but the NHS has started to realise the surgery we do is safe, successful and cost-effective.
“If your television is broken, you do not necessarily want to understand why it is broken – you just want to get it fixed.”
Prof Kerrigan described the centres as “a great coup with Merseyside”, with obese patients coming from as far north as Carlisle and from Manchester for operations.
By having highly specialised surgeons doing the same operations every day, the centres will “break new ground nationally”, according to Professor Kerrigan.
His group of surgeons specialise in gastric band and gastric bypass operations, with about 20% of procedures at the centres being the former and 50% the latter.
The bypass operation disrupts the body’s hormones which cause hunger, meaning patients who “were never full” lose their appetite post-surgery.
Prof Kerrigan said patients weighing more than 40 stone and with a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 95 who had “given up” suddenly had a chance of losing weight to beat their life-threatening condition.
He added: “We need to treat the patient from head to stomach, not just the stomach.”
The two clinics will only treat patients with a BMI of more than 40, of which there are more than one million nationwide.
Figures published this week highlighted the scale of the obesity challenge faced in Merseyside.
Knowsley had the highest rate of hospital admissions for obesity in 2011-12 in the North West.
Women from the borough were also nearly twice as likely to be admitted to hospital as those in Wirral.
Prof Kerrigan added: “We know there is a strong link between obesity and economic deprivation.
“In areas like Merseyside, people suffering in tough times eat cheap, bad food, which only makes the situation worse.”
Previously the NHS was slow to endorse surgery for fear of complications.
But Prof Kerrigan insisted their procedures are “completely safe”, with no serious complications or deaths at all in their last 1,000 operations.
He also claimed three in four operations were completely successful in tackling patients’ weight problems.