Elective bariatric surgery in both the NHS and private sectors will effectively cease for the next 3- 6 months to help the NHS cope with the extraordinary pressures that the coronavirus outbreak has brought.
In the midst of this organised chaos and uncertainty it’s important that we support each other, our colleagues and our patients.
Bariatric surgeons are the most skilled and versatile laparoscopic surgeons in the UK.
We can use those skills in this crisis to improve the throughput and efficient management of emergency admissions through our hospitals, freeing the reduced number of emergency beds that will be available once Covid-19 patients flood the system. Even those of us who work predominantly in independent hospital units can assist here, by redeploying ourselves and using the time freed by a lack of elective work to help cover emergency rotas and other duties in our local Trusts. From personal experience I can reassure you that the Trust MDs and CEOs are very open to this.
We may no longer be performing bariatric cases, but we still have a responsibility to those we have already treated.
The generality of the NHS has rarely been good at handling the special needs of post-op bariatric patients who present as an emergency.
However, there are practical steps that we can take to safeguard their well-being during these difficult times, such as establishment of a bariatric helpline and a switch to remote telephone clinics with access to blood results etc. so that regular monitoring continues.
There is also still a need (albeit limited) for face to face contact with patients in genuine need of urgent help such as a band deflation.
We should take a lead in ensuring these safety nets are set up where we work.
After this storm has passed we will be changed as a nation and as a profession, but I believe this will be in a positive way given the camaraderie we share.
Bariatric surgery will return (and we need to have plans for how we deal with the inevitable backlog of work).
But in the meanwhile please keep safe, be patient and supportive under pressure and most of all, in the heat of battle do not lose your humanity.
With my best wishes
British Obesity and Metabolic Surgery Society