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Lipoedema treatment ‘may’ become free on NHS

Lorna Taggart in the countryside
Lorna Taggart in the countryside Image credit:

A woman with a rare chronic condition which has accumulated excess fat on her legs had to fight for treatment by the NHS.

Lorna Taggart from the Isle of Skye suffers severe pain and exhaustion due to her lipoedema, the condition has forced her to give up a teaching job and has made life considerably more difficult bringing up her three children with husband Ally.

The 41-year-old told iNews: “I’m condemned to living a half-life with these legs.

“It is like dragging an additional two people around all the time.”

Despite constant exercise and following a strict diet Lorna legs have continued to grow so large she has been measured for a wheelchair just so she can keep some form of independence.

Her hips now measure 150cm (59in) – 57cm more than her waist. Above the waist Lorna is size 18, although below she is 26.

Taggart was ‘almost’ lucky, she was one of the few patients with the condition who was put forward for treatment by Professor Munnoch in June 2020, but the pandemic has delayed her appointment.

Prof Munnoch usually performs 30 liposuctions a year – half of which are for patients with lipoedema.

He stressed: “The cases we do are for the pain and discomfort.

“None of my patients are concerned about their appearance.”

Most patients with lipoedema are expected to pay for treatment because the only hospital offering the procedure is St Georges in London which can only treat 10 people with the condition per week.

In October, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) will decide if liposuction can be made available for more lipoedema patients on the NHS.

Professor Peter Mortimer from St George’s Hospital hopes Nice will make the right decision.

He said: “It is very important that Nice approves liposuction for these patients, because for those with classic lipoedema there is no other treatment. There is no doubt that liposuction can be life-changing for the classic patient – physically, psychologically, but more particularly because their pain can just disappear.”

According to study compiled by Lipoedema UK 10 per cent of people with the condition consider themselves bedridden, 44 per cent believe the illness affected their mental health, 55 per cent had to wait at least 10 years to be diagnosed only 16 per cent of which from a GP.

Chairperson of the charity, Sharie Fetzer said: “We obviously hope that Nice will respond to requests for surgery.”

Around 72,000 women suffer from lipoedema in the UK.