A Morecambe dad is campaigning for surgical treatment to remove excess skin after he lost a massive 22 stone to help his crippling arthritis.
Jeff Huggins, of Branksome Drive, lost the weight in just 18 months – but is now facing a struggle to get the excess skin, which weighs more than three stone, removed.
Dad-of-three Jeff was diagnosed with arthritis in his late 30s, and as it got worse it affected his quality of life.
He also struggled with alcoholism for 20 years, followed by a dependency on prescription drugs.
The 45-year-old said: “This led me into depression and self loathing the thing I felt I had left was my love of food, which consequently got me to a whopping 39 plus stone.
“My rheumatologist advised me that if I was able to lose a significant amount of weight they would be able to replace my knees, but at 39 stone it would not even be considered.
“I was offered to be referred for a gastric balloon on the NHS; however I refused this as I felt this could be acheived by myself and was worth trying.
“Over the past 18 months I have managed to lose 22 stone.”
Jeff puts his dramatic weight loss down to cutting out carbs and sugar, reducing his portions and limiting himself to 1,500 to 2,000 calories a day.
“The weight just started to fall off,” he said. “It’s just a case of keeping it off now.”
Jeff was referred to a plastic surgeon at the Royal Preston Hospital to discuss the removal of his excess skin.
“The amount of excess skin around my abdomen, back, breasts and buttocks is really affecting my life,” he said. “I have had recurring cellulitis underneath the folds. I am also unable to clean myself due to the sheer amount of skin and my inability to reach under the folded areas due to my arthritis. I also struggle to sleep at night lying on the folds in my back is very painful.”
With the support of his rheumatologist, plastic surgeon and doctor, Jeff applied to the NHS Lancashire North Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) for the funding of the operation.
He said: “The CCG refused funding on the grounds that I don’t meet their criteria regarding BMI. They state that I need to be between a BMI of 18.5 and 25 which is approximately between 10 and14 stone before surgery.
“I am 6ft 4ins and currently have between three and four stone of excess skin on my body. A number of health officials that I have seen agree that this is impossible and unacheivable.
“I have worked so hard to lose the weight so this is very frustrating.”
Jeff’s family has now set up an online fundraising page in a bid to raise £5,000 towards the surgery.
He said: “We as a family understand that this is a very controversial issue. This is a last resort and we hoped as a family we would never be in this position.
“We are not campaigning against the NHS, we are simply campaigning against the criteria set out for this operation as we feel it should be looked at on an individual case, as it’s not a ‘one size fits all’ situation. I am hoping they will change the policy for other people in the future.”
A spokesman for the NHS Lancashire North CCG this week issued a statement on their policy for abdominoplasty and body contouring.
They said: “NHS North Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group acknowledges there are some clinical procedures where the CCG can agree to specific criteria being met before funding is agreed.
“If a patient does not meet this criteria the patient can then ask for their case to be considered if they feel their circumstances are ‘exceptional’ or ‘unusual’. The decision for treatment is made by a panel of clinicians and health care professionals after careful consideration of all the relevant facts.”
Jeff’s fundraising page can be found at https://www.gofundme.com/2sn328bc.