You can't save the NHS money by giving lardbuckets gastric bands


Apologies that we have to return to one of our treasured themes here at the ASI. But once again we are seeing the fallacy that reducing the number of fat lardbuckets will save the NHS money. It won't we're afraid, it just won't:

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) has just announced that it is considering lowering the BMI threshold for people with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes for assessment and referral for bariatric (stomach-reducing) surgery. If this goes ahead, it could mean more than 800,000 additional people qualifying for possible gastric bands or similar treatments.

Perhaps some people out there right now are gearing up to the standard reaction, along the lines of: "Lazy, unmotivated lardarses getting mollycoddled by the state after they've stuffed their faces and not exercised. Why should the state pay for that?"

No mention of how losing weight (and avoiding maladies) through such surgery could save the NHS millions and therefore be classed as relatively cost-effective.

The problem with this saving the NHS money argument is that it is simply untrue. For obesity (and we do mean obesity here, not simply being overweight or a bit tubby) kills people younger than they would otherwise have been likely to die. And in a health care system where all medical expenses are picked up by the same organisation a longer life leads to greater total expenditure. This is well known and has been proven:

The actual numbers for lifetime from 20 years old medical costs were:

The lifetime costs were in Euros:

Healthy: 281,000

Obese: 250,000

Smokers: 220,000

This does not, of course, mean that the NHS should not fund gastric bands. We generally think that then purpose of said NHS is to aid us all in living longer and healthier lives so if that's the appropriate treatment to lead to that desirable outcome then that's just fine. But we can't bolster our argument in favour of the procedure by insisting that it will save money. It won't: if it works it will cost more, not less, over time.

It is this specific argument, the cost saving one, that is fallacious, not all and every argument about gastric bands or, indeed, the NHS itself.