Friday, 30 May 2014

The NHS and Fat People

Yes, you read that right. I just used the f-word in the title of this post. Now, to business. For the past goodness knows how long, I've been reading a lot from people complaining about the fact that fat people receive help to diet courtesy of the NHS. Apparently this offends them, apparently the NHS should use their resources for better things.

As a fat person, I felt that I had to weigh in on the issue (ha! See what I did there?). Now, as a said fat person, I want to lay it right out, that I have never sought help from the NHS for anything weight-related. Personally, my weight is my problem and I should deal with it for myself and it is no one else's business. When I moved house and registered with a new doctors surgery six months ago, the Nurse did actually offer me ten-weeks membership to Weight Watchers, but I turned it down, because I was already a member.

I've also heard that alongside Weight Watchers, some Doctors will also refer fat patients to their local Gym, offering them free memberships. I've never been offered that, so I don't know any facts.

Now, these offers are what people moan about the most, but let me put it another way:

According to an article on the BBC's website yesterday, for a fat patient to have a Gastric Band costs the NHS £15,000 and that's not including the extra £20,000 that is needed to cover patient after-care. All together, that adds up to £35,000. Now, if we're discussing Gastric Bands, we're going to be talking about really obese people, people who are also likely to not fit into standard-sized beds and equipment, meaning that larger sized things need to be purchased, costing even more money.

Therefore, surely the solution is to tackle "fatness" before it reaches those astronomically expensive costs, right?

Let's break this down.

I pay roughly £21 a month for my membership to Weight Watchers, so for the equivalent of £35,000 for one person's Gastric Band, that is roughly 556 people that could be helped to kick start their weight loss for the initial three month period. Over the period of a year, that could help roughly 2,222 people.

So, which would you prefer?

Option One: Allow people to just get bigger and bigger until they are really enormous, costing more money on a per-person basis or;

Option Two: Tackle it early, and help more people fairly cheaply?

Whether we like it or not, we are a nation that has a big problem with food. It controls our lives, whether we binge eat it or avoid it completely. I'd love to say that it's time to change our attitudes towards food, but we all know that changing attitudes is often easier said than done. Food is like a drug; many of us are controlled by it whilst others use it to take control over an aspect of our lives.

The NHS is designed to help people. They help smokers, alcoholics and drug addicts, so why not help people with eating disorders? 


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