Weight loss surgery is available on the NHS for people who meet certain criteria.
It's also available privately, but you'll have to pay for it and it can be expensive.
The criteria for weight loss surgery on the NHS can vary across England. Check with a GP if you think surgery could be an option for you.
National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines on obesity recommend that surgery should be provided on the NHS if you meet all of the following criteria:
- you have a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or more, or a BMI between 35 and 40 and a serious condition that might improve if you lost weight (such as type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure)
- you've tried all other weight loss methods, such as dieting and exercise, but have struggled to lose weight or keep it off
- you agree to long-term follow-up after surgery – such as making healthy lifestyle changes and attending regular check-ups
- you're fit and healthy enough to have surgery under general anaesthetic (where you're asleep)
- you've been receiving or will receive treatment from a specialist obesity team
If your BMI is 50 or over, surgery may be considered without needing to try other weight loss methods first.
If you've been recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, particularly if you have a south Asian background, an assessment to see if surgery is suitable may be considered if your BMI is below 35.
The cost of private weight loss surgery can vary.
Typical prices are:
- gastric band surgery – £4,000 to £8,000
- gastric bypass – £8,000 to £15,000
- sleeve gastrectomy – £8,000 to £10,000
You may not need a referral from a GP for private treatment, but it's a good idea to speak to one for advice first.
Before approaching a private clinic or surgeon, do as much research as possible into the different types of weight loss surgery and think about the questions you want to ask.
Some people consider having treatment abroad, where costs for private treatment can be cheaper, but make sure you weigh up any potential savings against the potential risks.
Standards may not be as strict in clinics outside the UK, and aftercare is not always straightforward. Clinics in other countries may not provide follow-up care, or it may not be the same standard as in the UK.