Chester welcomes its new super centre for weightloss surgery

The new facility that has just opened at the Countess of Chester Hospital is aiming to treat patients from their heads to their stomachs. This ground breaking new facility is to tackle the growing obesity epidemic in the region.

It is one of two new super centres opening in the North West, a region were almost one in four are obese. The second is the Aintree University Hospital located at Fazakerley, Liverpool. Between the two, it is estimated that they will be performing almost 1000 operations for weightloss per year.

The pioneering new supercentres have been set up by Professor David Kerrigan, the bariatric (weight loss) surgeon who advised the government on the NICE obesity guidelines used today. His not-for-profit company Phoenix Public Health is contracted by the NHS to perform surgery throughout the North West of England, from Cheshire to Cumbria.

“The scale of the obesity challenge we face in this country is staggering,” said Professor Kerrigan, who is being hailed as the North West’s ‘obesity tsar’. Professor Kerrigan believes that to be truly effective weight loss surgery needs to be linked to changes of lifestyle and behaviour.

For this reason, patients attending the new supercentres are assessed and referred if necessary to a bariatric psychologist before surgery. The bariatric psychologist then assesses whether they understand their eating behaviours and are strong enough to change them.

Professor Kerrigan added: “Our experience over many years shows that very severe obesity is frequently linked to psychological difficulties. In up to half of patients their abnormal eating patterns seem to have been triggered by past emotional trauma.

“Understanding eating behaviours is vital to the long-term success of weight loss surgery, which is why patients need to be treated from head to stomach. Many patients use food as a ‘crutch’ if they are unhappy. Binge eating may be triggered by a psychological issue and unless this is addressed, a patient’s on-going unhappiness could undermine their commitment to changing their diet and lifestyle.”

Professor Kerrigan added that by having highly specialised doctors doing the same operations every day, the centres in Chester and Liverpool would concentrate expertise in the hands of a few experts, reducing both the risk of complications and the cost to the NHS.

Phoenix Health surgeons specialise in gastric banding, gastric sleeve operations and gastric bypass surgery, but also perform more complicated operations such as re-do surgery for failed weight loss and the duodenal switch.

Patients who qualify for surgery on the NHS need to have a body mass index (BMI) over 40, or over 35 if associated with medical conditions that might improve after surgery. Phoenix Health surgeons also accept private referrals at their clinics in Chester and Liverpool.