MORE than 1,000 obese people have gone under the knife at a Southampton hospital – and lost a combined total of 51 tonnes.

The milestone has been reached at the Spire Southampton Hospital after eight years of gastric band and bypass operations.

The total weight lost by the hospital’s patients over the past eight years is equivalent to ten adult elephants or 612 average men.

Surgeons carry out operations there privately and for the NHS.

Bariatric surgeon Michael Van den Bossche said when the hospital first began performing weight-loss surgery in 2002 only a handful of gastric band procedures were being carried out each month. The hospital is now averaging about 30 each month.

He said: “Most people who are overweight are desperately unhappy. People who have had surgery tell me about how I have given them their life back “It is also about prevention. The health costs associated with obesity runs into the millions.”

The Daily Echo revealed last month that the city’s above average obesity levels is costing the city a staggering £147m a year.

An investigation into the city’s weighty problem, carried out by the city council’s health scrutiny panel, also found that just over one in four adults and nearly one in ten five-year-olds are classed as dangerously fat.

Currently, patients have to have a body mass index (BMI) of 45 and above plus evidence of a serious health condition such as type 2 diabetes to be eligible for treatment on the NHS. Chronically overweight people, with a BMI of 60 and above, qualify automatically.

However, Mr Van den Bossche said health chiefs should lower the criteria because obese young people with no serious illness should be able to have the operation for their present and future mental and physical health.

Jane Whitney Smith, head of clinical services at the Spire Southampton Hospital in Chalybeate Close, said the surgery carried out at the hospital changed people’s lives, but was only the first step in keeping the weight off in the future.

She said: “We ensure that they receive the best possible after care service. Our consultant dietician, Rhoda Sutherland is there to provide our patients with support for as long as they require it, as is our counselling service.”