NICE stands for the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence
It’s a government body that sets the eligibility criteria for drugs and medical procedures in the UK. In addition to setting criteria for surgical procedures such as gastric bypass or gastric sleeve, they provide the guidelines that apply to fertility treatment and new cancer treatments.
Although they provide guidelines it is unusual for the NHS, or commissioning groups, to operate outside of their guidelines. In fact, where weight loss surgery is concerned it is more likely that local hospital Trusts and Commissioning groups will apply much more stringent criteria. This is because there are insufficient resources to treat all of the patients who are eligible.
For weight loss surgery, the NICE guidelines are that the following people are eligible for NHS surgery:
- A body mass index (BMI) above 40 – check your BMI here
- A BMI above 35 when accompanied by a serious weight related co-morbidity (illness or disease) such as Type 2 Diabetes
The criteria above only apply when it is demonstrated that other weight loss methods have been tried and failed. In practice that means that all people hoping to have weight loss surgery in the NHS will first need to complete an NHS weight loss programme that is run through their local NHS Hospital Trust. It usually ruins for a minimum of 6 months and requires people to attend regularly and keep to appointments.
In order to get onto this programme you will need the support of your GP as a referral from your GP will be required.
Once the course is completed, potential patients will be referred to a surgeon. There will usually be a long waiting list before being seen by the surgeon. There is also a requirement for your case to be reviewed by a multi-disciplinary team including dietitians, psychologists and anaesthetists. From completion of the weight loss programme it can take 18 months or more before surgery will be scheduled.