Friday 22 March 2019

Obese youngsters will be offered weight-loss ops at new Children's Hospital

Prof Donal O’Shea
Prof Donal O’Shea

Talks will continue next year on providing vital weight-loss surgery for children at the new National Children's Hospital.

Prof Donal O'Shea, who was appointed last September as the HSE's Clinical Lead for Obesity, said he has already had one meeting with the hospital about the issue, and a follow-up one will be scheduled.

He said there was a clear acknowledgement that obesity surgeries for adolescents are already a necessity.

"It is a requirement that we are not meeting at the moment," Prof O'Shea added.

A small number of teenagers are being sent for obesity surgery to Britain, where a number of centres carry out paediatric bariatric operations.

"Part of my job as HSE Lead for Obesity is to make sure that we have access to appropriate access to treatment, and that includes for children," Prof O'Shea said.

"So I know from talking to paediatric anaesthetists and paediatric surgeons that they have already had to kind of upgrade their equipment and their operating theatres and their trolleys to cope with the weight of the kids who are having routine operations like tonsils and appendixes and things like that."

Bariatric, or weight-loss, surgery carried out on adolescents is the same as that carried out on adults, where the size of the stomach is reduced.


"At the moment there isn't really effective medication, so it's down to, in the extreme situations, you need to do the gastric bypass surgery," Prof O'Shea said.

He added that the new Children's Hospital had indicated it would be hoping to appoint a surgeon with an interest in bariatric procedures.

"They realise it needs to happen and they realise therefore that they need to hire the expertise and you need to recruit a bariatric surgeon," he said.

"That kind of service could only be in the National Children's Hospital.

"I don't think we will ever have a volume enough to say it should be in a second centre also."

Prof O'Shea said the surgeries would have to be done on a case-by-case basis. He did not envisage more than between 20 and 30 procedures a year being done at the hospital.

"I really would like to think that over the next 20 years you would see the need for childhood obesity surgery decrease," he said.

Prof O'Shea has been seconded from his clinical post two days a week to work with the HSE's healthy-eating, active-living policy programme.

A key focus of his role is the development and integration of evidence-based models of care that strengthen prevention, early intervention, treat- ment for overweight and obese people across primary care and acute services for children and adults.

The Government's Healthy Weight for Ireland: Obesity Policy and Action Plan has set out a 10-step plan to address the issue.

It comes as figures show that 90pc of obese children will go on to become obese adults.

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