GWENT is facing a fat epidemic with 61 per cent of adults in Gwent likely to be overweight or obese, a new study shows.

The Wales-wide study of people’s perceptions of their health found around 280,000 people were overweight or obese.

And according to that study, known as the Welsh Health Survey, one in four, or more than 100,000, Gwent adults (aged 16 and over) are likely to be obese.

The 61 per cent rate for adults overweight and obese, and the 25 per cent rate for adult obesity are the second highest among Wales’ seven health board areas, lower only than Cwm Taf.

The Wales-wide rates are 58 per cent and 22 per cent respectively.

The shocking figures coincide with a sobering report on the availability of services for treating obesity in Wales, which reveals that many patients remain unable to get access to the specialist help they need.

The report, from the assembly’s health and social care committee, includes a stark warning from Gwent expert Dr Nadim Haboubi, who runs Wales’ only specialist obesity clinic – at Ysbyty Aneurin Bevan in Ebbw Vale – who says that without investment, nothing will change for patients, many of whom he describes as “desperate” by the time they are referred to his team.

The Availability of Bariatric Services report is the result of a committee investigation into weight management services in Wales, following claims that implementation of the Welsh Government’s 2010 All Wales Obesity Pathway has been patchy, particularly concerning specialist obesity services.

The pathway sets out an approach to prevention and treatment of obesity in children and adults in Wales, based on community-based prevention and early intervention, through so-called Level One and Two services, and specialist medical and surgical services, or Levels Three and Four.

The Ebbw Vale clinic is Wales’ only Level Three (comprehensive specialist weight management) service and receives referrals from across Gwent and far beyond.

The Royal College of Physicians’ evidence to the committee talked of a “paucity” of Level Three services and a lack of clinical psychology capacity to help patients.

Patients who contributed evidence to the committee cited examples of “significant” waits, and Dr Haboubi told the committee: “The reason why we have so many referrals and such a long waiting list is because there is nobody else and these people are desperate.

“They have tried everything, such as the commercial organisations. They have lost weight before and put it back on again.”

He called their condition “extremely complex” and requiring the expertise of a team, including dieticians and psychologists, as well as physicians.

“There should be a Level Three service in every single health board,” said Dr Haboubi in his committee evidence, quoted in the report.

In his role as chairman of the National Obesity Forum for Wales, he added: “In our opinion, that would have to be centrally commissioned, because if you leave it to the health boards, no-one will put his hand in his pocket to get the money out.

“You produce a document and you have to enforce it. You have to make sure that health boards implement it, whether you (Welsh Government) or they have to provide the resources.”

The committee has made eight recommendations to the Welsh Government to make bariatric services more equitable across Wales.

These include measures to build Level Three provision and consideration of training all for health professionals, across disciplines, on obesity – including causes, treatment, and appropriate pathways.