The NHS is suffering from such a severe shortage of specially-trained obesity surgeons that, in some areas of the UK, operations are being offered to only the most serious cases.
The BBC has discovered that, although patients are eligible for gastric banding or gastric bypass operations if they have a body mass index (BMI) of 40, or 35 if they have an additional condition, some areas are only offering operations to those patients with a BMI of 60 and above.
Dr Ian Campbell, medical director of the charity Weight Concern, told the BBC that the NHS is failing people, describing its obesity care as "woeful".
"There are tens of thousands of people who would benefit from this sort of surgery but are not getting it, either because they are not aware of it, their surgeons are not aware of it or they do not meet the criteria," he said.
Roger Ackroyd, a bariatric (obesity) specialist at the Royal Hallamshire hospital and the private BMI Healthcare Thornbury hospital, blamed a lack of trained surgeons for the crisis.
Mr Ackroyd also revealed that, of the 70 UK doctors who are specially trained in the field, only half of these carry out surgery on a regular basis.
"There are about 1.2 million people who fit the NICE [National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence] criteria for obesity surgery in the UK, and there is no way that the NHS can cope with that with just 20 to 30 surgeons to carry out the work," he told the BBC.
As well as aiding weight loss, obesity surgery also significantly reduces health problems that are related to being overweight, such as diabetes, arthritis and coronary heart disease.
© Adfero Ltd
Obesity treatment news : 24/07/2006