Published: 06:00, 16 May 2020
| Updated: 11:16, 16 May 2020
Hospital admissions for obesity in one area of Kent is the highest in the South East, new figures reveal.
In Medway, the number of patients increased by half from 80 to 120 in 2018/19. Along with having the unwanted tag of the highest in the region, it is the most in Kent.
Health chiefs in the Towns say it is a "top priority" for them to tackle the area's growing waistlines.
Medway also has the highest proportion of patients having bariatric surgery in the South East – more than double the average for the region, according to figures published by NHS Digital.
For every 100,000 patients, 34 in the Towns received treatments such as gastric bands or gastric bypasses in 2018/19, against the South East's average of 16 per 100,000.
The 90 patients who received treatment is the highest in Kent – 70 of whom were women and equal to 50 patients per 100,000, which is twice as high as for all women in the South East.
Cllr David Brake, Medway Council cabinet member for public health and chairman of the Medway Health and Wellbeing Board, said: "As obesity is caused by a number of factors we need to take a wider partnership approach to tackle the root of the problem with support from private, public, third and academic sector partners.
“We are committed to continuing to work with our partners in the Medway Healthy Weight Network to champion organisations to take action to tackle obesity in Medway."
Cllr Brake added the board agreed in February to design a new "whole system approach" to combat the problem working with various organisations across the health sector.
A total of 320 people in Kent and Medway were admitted for surgical procedures in 2018/19.
Swale was third overall in the South East with 31 patients per 100,000 and 38 women per 100,000 receiving surgery.
The rest of the county saw hospital admissions for obesity increase by 22% as 330 people were admitted with obesity considered the primary diagnosis, according to the NHS.
A spokesman for the NHS Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) – which replaced local CCGs earlier this year – said: "While GPs will routinely provide lifestyle advice to patients, Medway Council and Kent County Council lead on the promotion of healthy eating and supporting lifestyle changes for the region, encouraging our citizens to make good choices in their diet and exercise.
“The NHS delivers care for those who have more serious obesity-related needs, when obesity is having a significant negative effect on their health.
"This includes structured weight-management programmes that bring in dietary management and exercise as well as psychological support, with care being overseen by a senior doctor."
Patients are considered for bariatric surgery if they are continuing to struggle having taken part in a weight loss structured programme.
"Most involve a surgical intervention to reduce the capacity of the stomach and they are only offered to patients if other programmes and interventions have not been effective,” a CCG spokesman added.
Prescriptions issued falling
Drug treatments are also available by prescription and NHS data shows this has fallen in Kent and Medway in the latest 12 months.
Between April 2019 and February 2020, the NHS in Kent and Medway spent £257,915 on Orlistat – the UK's only officially recognised drug treatment for obesity.
CCGs issued 11,666 prescriptions in 2018/19, down from 12,640 the previous year, according to NHS statistics.
The highest number of prescriptions issued was in the West Kent CCG area at 2,987. Medway was second with 2,132.
Orlistat works by reducing the digestion of fat in the digestive system, so that it passes through the body and is not absorbed.
Help is at hand
Kent County Council (KCC) says it provides various programmes across the county to help people "achieve long-term healthy weight loss and address dietary intake".
Services are provided by the authority's One You Kent initiative and works with the Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust in east Kent, and district and borough councils in west and north Kent.
KCC director of public health Andrew Scott-Clark said: "We support national initiatives such as Change4Life and One You, alongside community-based weight management programmes for adults and fun activity-based programmes for families with children and educational programmes in schools.
"From April 2018 to December 2019, the service has received over 33,000 referrals.
"On average, each quarter, over 3,000 individuals are engaged in the service, from receiving Health MOTs and NHS Health Checks to accessing smoking cessation service, weight-management programmes and Health Walks.
"During the current Covid pandemic, referrals into One You Kent are still being accepted to new clients who are happy to be supported. Due to the current guidelines across Kent, One You advisors are offering support via telephone or video call."
Cllr Brake added the council helps provide management programmes for young people, adults and families as well as providing a "range of physical activity and healthy eating services".
Free swimming is available in Medway and the authority says it works with businesses to encourage healthier lifestyles and weight loss initiatives.
"We also support schools to promote healthy eating and use planning policy to create healthier environments for residents to live, work and study in," Cllr Brake said. “Together we will tackle obesity and encourage residents to live healthier lives.”
For more information visit www.oneyoukent.org.uk and complete a referral form, call 0300 123 1220 to speak to an advisor or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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