Covid 19 and Weight Loss Surgery

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As we work our way through this first phase of the Coronavirus pandemic people are now turning their attention to what a return to ‘normal’ life might look like when the current lockdown measures begin to unwind.

Those who are on NHS waiting lists for weight loss surgery or who are considering private surgery will be interested in the possible implications. Based on discussions with our network of surgeons here is what we are expecting:

NHS Waiting times – Covid 19 has caused a suspension of almost all routine surgery in the NHS for the last 2 months as resources have been redirected to critical care. This means that weight loss surgery, such as gastric sleeve and gastric bypass, has been suspended also. We anticipate that it will be several months before these procedures are resumed in the NHS as there will be other treatments that are more urgent that resume first, for example cancer treatment and emergency surgery. It’s therefore possible that routine weight loss surgery will not resume in the NHS until towards the end of the year. Private surgery will certainly resume before that and we are hoping to see a resumption towards the end of May or in June, although most weight loss surgery cannot be classified as an emergency, it does however deliver a massive health benefit to patients.

New processes – It is inevitable that when surgery does resume that new processes will be in place. It will be important to maintain a Coronavirus free environment in regular hospital settings and that is likely to mean a short period before operations when patients are tested, probably on more than one occasion, to reduce the risk of likelihood of them bringing the virus into hospital.

It is also likely that theatre staff will need to wear additional personal protective equipment and this, together with the cost of additional testing, could increase the cost of surgery. As Coronavirus is an airborn disease we think the need for additional safety processes for endoscopic procedures (where instruments are placed into the stomach through the mouth) are the most likely to require additional safety measures.

Private demand for surgery – We think that the combination of the lockdown and the deferment of NHS procedures will lead to a surge in demand for private weight loss surgery.

This remains a fast moving situation and this update contains our current thinking on how things might develop. We expect to know more in the next couple of weeks when we expect to see more information on the relaxation of lockdown plans.

If you have any questions about weight loss surgery, please contact us using this link.

Picture of Rishi Singhal

Rishi Singhal

Rishi is an expert bariatric surgeon based in the West Midlands and also Medical Director at Healthier Weight

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