Free Gastric Band

With obesity becoming an increasing problem in the United Kingdom more and more people are turning to weight loss surgery to help them lose weight. There are numerous private clinics in the UK and abroad that offer the surgery within weeks of a consultation, but what if you cannot afford the costs of private surgery? The NHS offer free gastric band surgery but there are criteria you must meet. 

What is gastric banding?

Gastric banding is a form of weight loss surgery which involves fitting a small, circular band around the top of a patient's stomach. This effectively decreases their stomach to one sixth of its original size making them feel fuller quicker and for longer. Once the band is in place it can be adjusted externally by injecting a saline solution into it. This further decreases the size of the stomach meaning the patient will lose weight. The gastric band is not intended to be removed although if needed it can be.


In order to have the treatment for free on the NHS the patient must meet certain criteria. These include:

  • The patient must be at least 18 years old
  • A gastric band can not be the first action to lose weight. The patient must prove that they have tried and been unsuccessful in other methods of weight loss such as exercise and dieting.
  • Gastric Band surgery is only available to people who's obesity is affecting their health.
  • The patient must have a BMI of between 35 and 40 and a serious health condition such as type 2 diabetes or a BMI of over 40 to qualify for surgery.
  • The patient must meet the medical and psychological terms of the procedure. If it is too risky to carry out surgery they can be denied.
  • The patient must understand that once the gastric band is fitted, they will have a long term commitment to enable them to lose weight. This includes exercising and minimising their food intake.

How long will it take to get the procedure?

Unlike private health care, the NHS has long waiting lists for gastric band surgery. Once a doctor has recommended their patient has the surgery they will be placed on a waiting list, with each operation being decided on a case by case basis. Areas only set aside a certain amount of money each year for weight loss surgery and so a patient can be waiting for as long as three years before they receive the operation.


Gastric band surgery is not suitable for everyone and to have the surgery on the NHS the patient needs to be referred by his/her doctor. If you have certain health implications a doctor may feel that it is too risky to carry out the surgery or they may ask the patient to adhere to further criteria before they will be placed on the waiting list. Although the procedure is free on the NHS it takes a lot more time and the rules are more stringent than with private surgery.

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