Why Mr Welbourn started Bariatric Surgery?

Richard Welbourn head

Why Mr Welbourn started Bariatric Surgery?

I first got interested in bariatric surgery in 2002 when the first NICE Guidelines came out. NICE is the NHS body that decides on appropriateness of treatments to be delivered within the NHS. The 2002 Obesity Guidance (CG43) contained referral criteria and protocols for patients considering bariatric surgery. At the time we were developing advanced laparoscopic (keyhole surgery) techniques and it seemed natural to use these to help patients control their weight and diabetes.

By chance also I went to a surgical conference in New York that year and was privileged to hear Dr Alan Wittgrove from San Diego, USA, talking about how did the first completely laparoscopic gastric bypass in 1993. His report of the first 5 cases is a landmark publication in the field and listening to him inspired me to develop a new bariatric surgical service for our patients in the South West https://link.springer.com/article/10.1381%2F096089294765558331

Together with others I put a team together in Musgrove Park Hospital, Taunton, consisting of anaesthetists, endocrinologists (diabetes specialists) and specialist nurses. It took more than a year of discussions with the Primary Care Groups (the forerunner to the Clinical Commissioning Groups that we have now) to agree to fund the service.

We were able to start helping our first NHS patients in 2004 and within a few months it became obvious that patients were losing large amounts of weight in a controlled, sustained manner, in a way that they had not been able to do before. We also noticed diabetes getting better – in fact patients were finding that their blood sugars were improving at the same time as being able to come off anti-diabetes medications. We had never seen this before as the concept of a patients ‘going into diabetes remission’ was completely new.

All the operations were laparoscopic and in the 15 years since then we have completed well over 3,000 operations. One of the extraordinary things of being able to do quite complicated surgery laparoscopically is the quick recovery – typically patients stay in hospital only 1 to 2 days. This is a complete contrast from when we used to make large cutting incisions through the abdominal wall, when patients would stay in a week to 10 days after other surgery. It also means that bariatric surgery is actually one of the safest procedures in the whole of surgery, with a risk of dying of around 1 in 1,000 in the 30 days after the operation.

*Disclaimer: Please note that weight loss surgery results and benefits are unique to each individual and in such The Bariatric Group cannot guarantee specific weight loss goals as results for each surgery can vary. If you have any questions or would like to know more about weight loss surgery please contact our expert team.