British Doctors to be Paid to Talk about Obesity

british doctors paidA proposal in Britain suggests that General Practitioners (GPs) get paid extra money for telling patients they’re obese, or enrolling them in a weight loss program. ‘A recent study estimated that illness caused by obesity and poor diet is costing the NHS more than six billion pounds a year, according to the Telegraph. Experts predict more than half of British adults and a quarter of children will be obese by 2040.’

Opinions ranged from very supportive – with the belief that with incentives to talk to patients about this issue, more GP’s will take important steps in being more involved in this critical health issue – to very disappointed. We talked to Dr. M M Gazayerli, a highly respected bariatric surgeon with extensive international experience and recognition for his contributions to pioneering laparoscopic surgical techniques. In addition to being an accomplished bariatric surgeon, Dr. Gazayerli is also a successful LAP-BAND patient, who is able to relate well with patients suffering from obesity.

We asked Dr. Gazayerli for his view on this proposal, as both a bariatric surgeon and formerly obese person. He said, “This is very typical of a British negative attitude towards their obese population, where parliament, the healthcare system, and general public have shown ongoing discriminatory attitudes towards obese individuals who are often labeled as ‘weak willed’ or lazy. I wonder why Winston Churchill was overweight or why we had a president, William Howard Taft, who was so obese that he got stuck in the White House bathtub and had to be sawed out of it – leaving all subsequent presidents a bathtub that is 7 feet long and 3.5 feet wide. Were these weak willed people? Of course not! ‘You’re fat and you need to lose weight’ is a very offensive statement, and to top it off the spokesperson for the National Obesity Forum referring to “weight management schemes” is certainly not going to encourage patients to follow their advice.  Overweight patients need as much empathy and medical care as a patient with an inflamed appendix.  Paying the government employees (GPs) to do something that in the USA we do without expecting monetary compensation may be the only way they can get indentured doctors to do what is good for the patient. Not only do we offer that advice for free, but when a gastric band patient loses their health coverage and cannot afford their fills, we do these for free. That generates good will and more referrals, in a place where we don’t see patients and doctors as just numbers.”

Tam Fry of the National Obesity Forum agrees with Dr. Gazayerli’s take on the payments saying, “I think it’s appalling that GPs need to be paid extra to do this.” The final details of the payment program have not been worked out yet.

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