HELP is at hand for people in Hartlepool and East Durham who are about to have weight-loss surgery.
Patients who find they have lots of questions that they want answered before an operation, now have a perfect chance to find out more.
The North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust has launched clinics which will be held in Hartlepool.
Experts at the trust say the clinics will run from the main outpatients department at the University Hospital of Hartlepool.
They will be held for patients who are due to have surgery.
And they say the clinic service is needed as weight loss surgery numbers have topped 180 since last year.
Since the service began in 2012 the trust has received 455 referrals and carried out 180 procedures for weight loss surgery.
These include gastric (stomach) bypass, gastric sleeve and gastric balloon.
Bariatric specialist nurse Sara Close said: “We are delighted to be running the clinics for patients in Hartlepool to make the service more accessible.
“People are referred to the service by their GP for their first appointment.
“This first appointment at the University Hospital of North Tees is a seminar, where people find out what is involved in having weight loss surgery.
“Then we meet the patients on their own for an assessment.”
Sara said patients must be suitable for them to be eligible.
“There are certain criteria which the patients must meet to be able to have weight loss surgery.
“Patients need a body mass index (BMI) of over 35 and health problems such as diabetes or high blood pressure or a BMI of over 40 and no health problems.”
But it is not just a case of people being admitted to the surgery without any commitment of their own, said Sara.
“People have to lose ten per cent of their excess body weight before surgery to show their commitment to making permanent lifestyle changes.
“We need to know these patients are suitable physically and emotionally, before going ahead.
“That is why there is a specialist team, including a psychologist to help and provide the right support for our patients.
“We are using specialist keyhole techniques which mean that patients are on their way home from hospital just a few days after the surgery.”
Anyone wanting more information should visit www.nth.nhs.uk/bariatric