Massive rise in weight-loss ops
Health experts have warned of obesity's "overwhelming" burden on the NHS as figures showed a 785% rise in weight-loss surgery.
Some doctors are "skirting around the rules" and not insisting on months of lifestyle change and pharmaceutical treatment before allowing patients to undergo surgery, specialists said.
Operations carried out for the most obese people in England soared over the past five years, according to the NHS Information Centre.
Data for 2003/04 showed there were 480 procedures, rising to 4,246 in 2008/09.
Tam Fry, from the National Obesity Forum, said: "These figures just show how bad things have got with the obesity epidemic.
"We have alternative ways of losing weight but when people realise this is a possibility, they could go for it.
"A lot of doctors are also starting to skirt around the rules and not insist on months of lifestyle change and pharmaceutical treatment - instead they are going straight for surgery."
Peter Sedman, bariatric surgeon and spokesman for the Royal College of Surgeons, said: "The number of morbidly obese patients in the UK is increasing rapidly and we need to continue to put even more resources into what is proven to be a successful and cost-effective method of treatment.
"The burden on the NHS in years to come in obesity-related illness will otherwise be overwhelming."
The upward trend of operations suggests figures for 2010 could be even higher.