MORE than 70 obese patients are being referred to a Sunderland Royal Hospital ward each month as they battle to beat the bulge.
The Royal’s weight loss ward is a national leader in the fight against obesity, with the team dealing with 900 referrals of people aged between 16 and 73 last year.
A total of 600 procedures were carried out on patients from across the North East in 2014 as they were given gastric bands and balloons.
The work of the ward and experience of its patients was famously featured in ITV series Weight Loss Ward, which followed those looking to reduce their heavy size.
It is now set to be covered in a documentary on Channel Five.
The 25-bed ward is staffed by six consultants and two specialist nurses, with scores of other members of staff involved.
All of those undergoing surgery are offered pre and post operative support, with many having underlying mental health issues.
The work of the ward has come in for criticism from some people, who say that those with obesity do not deserve NHS-funded operations.
But Arun Sekhar, bariatric specialist nurse at the Royal, said: “You will always get people saying that it’s a waste of money and how the obese should stop eating at Greggs.
“But if you look at it in real terms you are often putting someone in remission from serious conditions like Type 2 diabetes. Once you’ve operated you are freeing up funding in the future.
“For me, the benefits definitely outweigh the negatives.”
Mr Sekhar also added that while some might see the Royal’s work with so many obese patients as a source of embarrassment, he says the city should be proud that they are helping people from so many different areas.
Figures from Public Health England show that Wearside has one of the highest proportions of obese adults in the country, at 18 per cent.
It is believed that the success of the weight loss ward at the Royal could lead to further units opening up across the country to deal with the epidemic.
“We get people being referred from all around the region,” said Mr Sekhar.
“They come from as far west as Carlisle, as far south as Yorkshire and as far north as Berwick for surgery.
“Patients from Sunderland are only a small portion of what we do. “People shouldn’t point a finger just at Sunderland, this is a regional and national problem that we have to deal with.”