Weight loss surgery funding a 'postcode lottery' - study

People's chances of getting weight loss surgery in New Zealand depend on a "postcode lottery", a new study has found.

The study, published in Internal Medicine Journal, found rates of bariatric surgery in New Zealand varied wildly depending on DHB.

Counties Manukau DHB had 8.8 surgeries per 1000 people living with obesity, while Waitemata had 4.9 and Taranaki had less than 0.5.

Bariatric surgery refers to procedures such as stomach stapling or a gastric bypass. It is the most effective treatment for serious obesity, leading to lasting weight loss and improved quality of life.

University of Auckland associate professor Rinki Murphy said New Zealand's national rates for bariatric surgery were trailing behind overseas.

"While most DHBs delivered a higher number of bariatric surgery procedures than the Ministry of Health funded targets, overall New Zealand's national rates of public-funded bariatric procedures at 2.7 per 1000 morbidly obese patients is less than half the rate in the UK and Australia."

She said the health system needs to urgently respond to the rising numbers of people affected by obesity.

"We need to work harder to eliminate inequities by geographic region, and to provide better and more transparent approaches to prioritising patient selection for this limited resource, along with more research to understand how to best serve our populations."