Hospital admissions for obesity in England have risen by 60 per cent in the last year and by 360 per cent compared to five years ago, according to figures released by The NHS Information Centre.
Hospital Episodes Statistics Admitted Patient Care, England 2008/09; shows there were 8,085 admissions for obesity in 2008/09; a 60 per cent rise on 2007/08 (5,056) and a 360 per cent rise since 2003/04 (1,746).
AdvertisementMore than half of these were for surgery, the other half for the treatment of diseases caused by obesity - including for breathing problems, type 2 diabetes, circulation or organ failure, or heart disease.
These latter admissions had increased year on year, although the figures are still relatively small - accounting for 3,839 of 14.2 million hospital admissions in total.
Obesity has risen dramatically since the early 1990s: in 1993, 16% of women and 13% of men were classed as obese, but now it is believed a quarter of the population fits the criteria.
NHS Information Centre chief executive Tim Straughan said: "Our figures show continuing increase in NHS admissions to hospitals, which are now in excess of 14 million.
"The large increase in admissions for obesity reflects the growing impact that obesity has on the health of our nation as well as the demands it is placing on limited NHS resources. However, it also reflects the fact that overweight people are resorting to treatments such as bariatric surgery to tackle their health problems. "
Tam Fry of the National Obesity Forum said society was after a "quick fix" for obesity.
"We no longer try to use diet and exercise as a way of treating this problem. The increasing demand for bariatric surgery is going to put a lot of pressure on the NHS."
But Gillian Merron, public health minister, argued the government was indeed trying to promote lifestyle improvements with its Change4Life campaign.
"We are taking action to address it and to prevent people becoming obese in the first place, backed up by major investment.
"Treating patients with drugs or recommending surgery is rightly a clinical decision - a healthier diet and more activity should be tried first."
While obesity remained one of the biggest health challenges, she also noted that rates among children appeared to be levelling off.
But the Conservative shadow health minister Mike Penning said the 360% rise in admissions was a "damning indictment of a Labour Party that has run out of ideas".
"Regrettably, the Labour government have neglected their responsibilities when it comes to helping people to live healthy lives," he said.
"There has never been a consistent plan to address the very serious problem of obesity, and these hospital admissions show that all too clearly."
Back in August, analysing answers to Parliamentary Questions, Liberal Democrats noted that the number of people admitted to hospital with obesity had almost tripled over the last five years. Around 100 people were being admitted each day, the party had said.
Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Secretary, Norman Lamb then said:
"The Government's failure to tackle the shocking levels of adult and childhood obesity is deeply depressing.
"The fact that the number of people admitted to hospital because of obesity has nearly tripled since Labour came to power makes it clear that their poorly-thought-out and gimmicky approach to public health simply isn't working."