Sharp rise in obesity related hospital admissions in Norfolk, data reveals
PUBLISHED: 07:00 10 April 2018 | UPDATED: 11:32 10 April 2018
Obesity-related hospital admissions in Norfolk have increased by thousands over the last three years, the latest figures show.
More patients are being admitted for knee and hip replacements due to their weight, as well as other obesity related conditions.
There were 8,911 admissions in 2016/17 where obesity was the main or secondary diagnosis - an increase of 3,954, or 80pc, from 2013/14, when NHS Digital first started compiling the data for local authorities.
Examples of obesity being the main cause for a hospital admission include weight related knee replacements, while secondary diagnoses, where obesity is a contributing factor, can be forms of cancer and heart conditions.
In Norfolk almost two thirds of the adult population are overweight or obese (65.7pc), slightly higher than the English average.
And one in four people (23.8pc) in Norfolk are obese.
In Suffolk, obesity-related admissions almost doubled.
There were 10,009 admissions in 2016/17 where obesity was the main or secondary diagnosis - an 85pc increase from 2013/14.
If no action is taken, by 2020 adult obesity in Norfolk will soar from 174,629 to 253,762 - this will cost the county more than £26m on treating weight-related diabetes alone.
One of those who was at risk of developing type two diabetes was Phil Roger, from Norwich. He was referred to the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme following a health check with his GP.
Mr Roger said: “The letter telling me I was at risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes really was a wake-up call, it seriously made me think about my life and lifestyle.”
Mr Roger joined up to the prevention scheme group in Brundall, which was based around the X-pert Diabetes prevention management book.
He said: “The education sessions were fantastic, it really is based on scientific evidence and means, for me, I could understand and digest it better as I could see what it was based on. The information given to me has turned into knowledge and I now understand the effect things like glucose have on your body.”
The NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme has been rolled out across the country, and is currently provided in North Norfolk, South Norfolk and Norwich and is due to be rolled out in West Norfolk and Great Yarmouth and Waveney in July.
Mr Roger, who lost four and a half stone during the programme, said: “It completely transformed my outlook on life.”
But Caroline Cerny, Obesity Health Alliance lead, said the figures on hospital admissions were “very concerning” despite programmes to reduce obesity.
She said: “As weight increases, so do the chances of developing serious life threatening conditions like Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
“Dealing with rising levels of disease is putting an unsustainable strain on our already over stretched health service.”
Of the total admissions in Norfolk, in 123 obesity was directly attributable.
Dr Louise Smith, Norfolk’s director of public health, added: “Maintaining a healthy weight can be challenging in today’s environment, but a healthy diet and active lifestyle will make a huge difference. Active Norfolk and the One You website offer great advice and opportunities, and those wishing to lose weight can visit local groups like Weight Watchers or Slimming World.”
Nationally the most common reason for hospital visits directly caused by obesity is wear and tear of knee joints.
More women were admitted than men in the county.
There were 5,747 admissions for women with obesity related health problems, compared to 3,163 for men.
Miss Cerny added: “This data is a stark reminder of exactly why we need measures like the forthcoming Soft Drinks Levy.
“But it’s clear that this alone won’t be enough to tackle rising obesity levels so we need the government to take further action to create a healthier environment for all, starting with tougher new rules to limit junk food advertising.”
There were also 51 operations for bariatric surgery in Norfolk in 2016/17, which is the most extreme weight loss treatment.
A total of 39 women underwent bariatric surgery, and 12 men.
This includes stomach stapling and gastric bypasses, and is often a last resort after dieting and exercise has failed.
Recent evidence has shown bariatric surgery is very effective and could save the NHS money in the long term.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said: “There’s no doubt that obesity fuels disease and puts pressure on the NHS.
“That’s why we’re working with industry to make food healthier and funding research into the root causes of obesity but we have not ruled out doing more in the future if the right results aren’t seen.”
Serious consequences of obesity
Obesity can lead to a number of serious and potentially life-threatening conditions such as type two diabetes, coronary heart disease, some types of cancer, and stroke.
Arvid Jayal, 64, from Salhouse was told he was borderline type two diabetes after his GP took a routine blood test and lost two stone - and 8in from his waist - thanks to an NHS prevention programme.
Mr Jayal, a music and documentary producer, led a sedentary lifestyle before the regime, which lasted 12 weeks.
He said: “Once it is explained you are more mindful of what you are fuelling your body with, it educates you to make the right choices. Since I have lost the weight I have so much energy and this in itself makes me feel so much better.
“Prior to joining the programme, my wife and I ate a pretty balanced diet but it was based on low fat high carbs, This has now been turned on its head.”
Mr Jayal now takes his dog out for daily three-and-a-half mile walks and undertakes high intensity interval training for seven to 10 minutes every day, as well as following his diet guidelines of fewer complex sugars and carbohydrates and increased protein.
Pre-diabetic patients can be referred onto the programme through their GP surgery.
What is obesity and how is it measured?
To be obese means a person is very overweight with a lot of body fat.
The most widely-used method for working out whether a person is obese is to use body mass index, or BMI.
It is a measure of whether a person is a healthy weight for their height, but it can be problematic because those who are very muscular can sometimes have a high BMI without excess fat.
However for most people, BMI will be a useful indication of whether they are a healthy weight, overweight, or obese.
For most adults a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is healthy, 25 to 29.9 is overweight, 30 to 39.9 means you’re obese, or 40 and above is severely obese.
A better measure of excess fat is waist circumference, especially in those who are overweight or obese.
In general, men with a waist circumference of more than 47in, or more than 31.5in for women, will be more likely to develop obesity-related health problems.