The Support Needs of People Following Bariatric Surgery in the UK

Nerissa Walker graduated from the MSc in Clinical Research at the School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR) in January 2016 with merit. Nerissa qualified as a dietitian in 1999, her current role for the past 15 years has been at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust as a Specialist Dietitian for Bariatric Surgery & Complex Obesity.  Nerissa decided to do the MSc in Clinical research to further her research career opportunities within bariatric and dietetic clinical research, locally and nationally.  Since graduating she hopes to use the knowledge and skills that she developed to undertake local and national research projects in bariatric surgery and obesity which will benefit patient care and clinical services.

The title of Nerissa's dissertation project was 'The Support Needs of People Following Bariatric Surgery in the UK'.


Background Previous studies have shown how support following bariatric surgery (BS) may influence outcomes such as weight loss.   UK bariatric policies and guidance recognise the need and requirement of bariatric clinical services (BCS) to provide multidisciplinary team support and patient support groups following BS.   It is currently unknown if people who have had BS and live in the UK feel their support needs are being met following BS or what types of support people need.  This study aimed to investigate the support needs of people living in the UK and who have had BS.  

Methods The study had a cross-sectional, non-experimental survey design. The target population was adults who lived in the UK and who had a BS procedure. The survey was distributed via bariatric patient and professional networks throughout the UK and self-completed online.  Descriptive and inferential statistics were used to analyse the data.  

Results 283 participants completed the survey.  Time since surgery varied with just over half (54%) being > 2 years. The majority were NHS funded (80%) and had undergone gastric bypass surgery.  70% of participants felt that overall, their support needs had not been fully met following BS and given the opportunity, most (68%) would choose to continue with formal support from their BCS after 2 years.  Those who were > 2 years following BS were less likely to have their support needs met compared to those < 2 years (p = <0.001).  They were also increasingly likely to use informal types of support such as online forums.  Having a gastric band was also associated with being less satisfied with support received compared to those who had a gastric bypass (p = 0.03).  Eating behaviours such as cravings, binge eating and avoiding eating was reported to require the most support (26%), followed by diet and nutrition (17%) and excess skin (17%). 

Conclusion Results of this survey suggest that the majority of people in the UK who have had BS do not feel that their support needs have been met.   Given our understanding of how support can positively impact on longer term health, particularly for those 2 years post procedure or with a gastric band, outcomes and patient experience could be improved.  A review of the support that is currently provided in the UK to patients that had BS is warranted.