Lack of obesity surgery has cost HSE more than €50m, report finds

Experts call for national plan and recognition of condition as disease of the brain

The lack of a national programme to treat obesity has cost the HSE at least €56 million over a decade in extra health costs, according to experts in the area.

Ireland urgently needs to establish a national weight management programme to provide obesity surgery and other options to at least 400 patients a year, a new report says.

A national obesity treatment programme would save the health service millions of euro by reducing the burden imposed by obesity-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes, sleep apnoea, cancer and fertility issues, according to the report by the Irish Society for Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism (IrSPEN).

It says obesity needs to be recognised as a disease of the brain and tackled with a co-ordinated programme providing diet and exercise, weight loss medicine, cognitive behavioural therapy and surgery.


Doing a minimum of 400 operations a year would have saved €56 million over a 10-year period by reducing diabetes medication costs alone, it has estimated.

“Failing to accept obesity as a disease contributes to stigma, shame, stress and ultimately the worsening health of patients.

"Complications from obesity are common, they are costly to manage and have severe effects on a person's wellbeing", said Prof Francis Finucane, consultant in obesity and endocrinology at Galway University Hospital.

Attributable deaths

The State has one of the highest obesity rates in Europe: one in four adults is obese and one in four children is overweight or obese, making them highly likely to become obese adults. Every year in the Republic approximately 2,000 deaths are attributable to obesity.

“Dedicated obesity treatment programmes provide a personalised holistic approach that help patients lose 10 per cent or more body weight, remain compliant with their weight loss regime and lower their risk of death from heart disease and stroke.

“ By taking this personalised approach, we can greatly reduce the costs of obesity-related diseases in Ireland and drastically improve people’s quality of life,” the report states.

IrSPEN, which was founded in 2010 and brings together health professionals from medicine and nutrition, is sponsored by a number of pharmaceutical and healthcare companies.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times