Fat Fifers cost NHS thousands

mid section view of a man sitting on a bench in a park --- Image by ? Royalty-Free/Corbis
mid section view of a man sitting on a bench in a park --- Image by ? Royalty-Free/Corbis

OBESITY in Fife is continuing to cost the local health board thousands, and the future spend will be “significant”, health chiefs have said.

The cost of prescription drugs used in the treatment of obesity is almost ten times higher than a decade ago, and despite efforts by NHS Fife to cut spending, resulting in a £100,000 drop in the past 12 months, more than £250,000 was spent on treating the condition last year alone.


Around 7037 prescriptions for Orlistat, a drug which prevents fat absorption, and Sibutramine, an appetite suppressant now withdrawn from the market, were given out by doctors across Fife in 2010/11.

And despite the figure dropping over the past year, Dr Brian Montgomery, NHS Fife medical director, told the Press this is partly to do with the fact that some drugs have been taken from the market due to safety fears.

He said: “As the incidence of obesity increases so too will the cost of treating obesity and its associated conditions.

“It is impossible to put a figure on the exact cost but it will be significant as obesity is a factor in a number of conditions including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, joint problems and certain types of cancer.”

While the total spend on obesity treatment is only a proportion of the overall cost of prescription drugs to the NHS, the health board is already £1.4 million overspent on its prescribing budget just five months into this financial year.

In addition, between 2008 and 2010 NHS Fife was forced to spend £24,000 on hospital beds for morbidly obese patients.


A number of initiatives have been set up across Fife in recent years in an attempt to tackle obesity, including programmes which address healthy eating, physical activity and alcohol consumption; and the BEST campaign, aimed at P4 children in Fife’s more deprived areas.

Carrie Lindsay, area education officer at Fife Council, added: “Almost all our schools are reaching the two hour per week PE target, and we also expect each child to do 60 minutes of physical activity a day.

“With NHS Fife we are encouraging children and families to cook together.”