Health Commission Wales (HCW) will only fund 12 obesity surgery procedures a year, forcing many patients to seek private obesity treatment, it has been claimed.
Professor John Baxter, a leading surgeon at Morriston Hospital in Swansea, told the Western Mail that the decision is placing lives at risk.
He also revealed that the HCW has raised the criteria for obesity surgery eligibility, meaning that the procedure is only available to the most severely overweight patients who also have obesity-related health problems such as diabetes.
"We are only doing 12 cases a year, but we know that there [are] at least 5,000 eligible cases in Wales and every year 350 patients become morbidly obese in Wales," Professor Baxter revealed.
The surgeon said that ideally, patients in need of obesity treatment should be identified in their 20s before they develop a life-long problem.
"But the average patient referred to me now has a body mass index of 58 - the heaviest patient had a BMI of 109 and weighed 300kg-plus," he claimed.
"At the moment we are playing catch up and dealing with only the sickest patients - some have already had a heart attack."
According to the Western Mail, HCW's policy contradicts the recommendation of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, whose guidance suggests that 300 people a year in Wales should be eligible for obesity surgery.