Only ‘super-obese’ will be helped following RIO closure

OVERWEIGHT patients will have to be “super-obese” before getting vital help under a new treatment route following the closure of the life-saving Rotherham Institute for Obesity.
Dr Matt CapehornDr Matt Capehorn
Dr Matt Capehorn

RIO director Dr Matt Capehorn said a new system, drawn up by Rotherham Clinical Commissioning Group following the centre’s closure in July, would only see patients with a body mass index (BMI) of more than 50 — double the higher end of the “healthy” range — referred to a doctor.

He predicted the system, brought into force on September 1, would see patients fail in their bid to lose weight and claimed it did not comply with health bosses’ guidelines.

“The Gate Surgery is taking on the weight management programme but unfortunately doctors can only refer to them directly if patients have got a BMI above 50,” Dr Capehorn said.

“It means that obese patients, with a BMI of 30 to 40 or morbidly obese patients, with a BMI of 40 to 50, cannot directly access the programme.

“They will have to go through an alternative health and fitness programme run by Places for People Leisure and do that for six months before they can be indirectly referred to The Gate.”

RIO shut its doors to NHS patients in July after helping around 7,000 people lose a total of 33.7 tonnes since 2009 despite the Advertiser calling for it to be saved as part of its Fighting Fit campaign.

Original plans drawn up by Rotherham CCG would have seen patients with a BMI above 50 referred to a doctor with a special interest in obesity.

But Dr Capehorn said patients would not even get to see a doctor in person under the new set-up and instead would be referred to a “virtual clinic” — where a GP would review their notes and advise their own doctor on prescriptions.

“The new pathway does not meet any of the NHS or Public Health England criteria for what makes up a weight management service,” he said.

“Once you get a BMI above 50, the only thing that’s going to work is bariatric surgery.”

Dr Capehorn said RIO continued to research obesity and offered its treatment programme to private patients.

“Public Health England are bringing out commissioning guidelines for CCGs later this year and Rotherham CCG will be extremely embarrassed to have had an effective service that ticked all of the boxes for a gold standard service, and instead have introduced one that won’t tick any of the boxes, just to save money,” he said.

Dr Richard Cullen, chairman of NHS Rotherham CCG, said the new pathway was in line with services offered in other areas.

He insisted it was accessible for all obese patients, with obese or morbidly obese patients using the Places for People exercise and support programme for sixth months followed by an assessment of the way forward.

Dr Cullen added: “Some patients may not need further treatment, but if they do, they may be considered for weight loss medication or bariatric surgery depending on their need.”