MORE than eight out of ten patients who have undergone weight loss surgery at a North-East hospital trust have lost half of their excess body weight within six months, according to doctors.

The specialist team of doctors who began weight loss surgery at County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust in 2011 are delighted at the success of the programme.

To date more than 100 weight loss, or bariatric, procedures have been carried out at either Darlington Memorial Hospital or the University Hospital of North Durham.

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Patients must meet strict criteria - they need to have a BMI (Body Mass Index) of over 40, or over 35 in the presence of other medical risks such as high blood pressure. Patients will have tried and failed to lose weight using conventional methods before they are accepted for surgery.

They also have to be committed to changing their lifestyle and eating habits after the operation.

Last year, to meet with growing demand, the trust appointed a third consultant surgeon, Andrew Mitchell, who joined the existing team of specialist bariatric consultants, Andrew Gilliam and Akeil Samier and specialist nurse, Sheryl Cameron.

The first year - between October 2011 and September 2012 - the service received 310 referrals.

Now the service is receiving around 40 referrals a month.

Mr Mitchell said: "A year in and the service is performing extremely well. I was delighted to join the team last year and be part of the development of this service which is already delivering real weight loss results for patients, improving their quality of life and having an impact on other health conditions.

"During my career working in three different UK bariatric units I have seen numerous patients that have had their quality of life transformed by weight loss surgery.

"Given we are a new service locally we only have short term follow-up data to date on our own patients.

"However after only six months follow-up almost all our gastric bypass and sleeve gastrectomy patients have lost at least half their excess body weight.

"We have already seen numerous patients with a drastic improvement and in many cases complete cure of their diabetes.

"A number of patients have been able to reduce or stop all their medication for high blood pressure.

"The service is therefore also reducing the healthcare costs associated with managing and treating these conditions."