Recipe For Sucess: A Conference For People Who Have Undergone Bariatric Surgery

LogoBy Pam Lindsay

Bariatric Dietitian, NHS Ayrshire and Arran.

In early 2015 there was a call for anyone wishing to submit a bid for endowment funding. I had been thinking hard about how we could motivate people in the longer-term following weight loss or bariatric surgery. I also wanted to celebrate the success of the patients that have gone through weight loss surgery over the last few years in Ayrshire and Arran (since 2008). I contacted a few people who had had bariatric surgery and asked them what they thought about working together to plan a patient conference. We decided to give it a go!

My bid was successful. I was delighted, and daunted, as I had never planned such a big event.


My first job was to get a group of patients together for a meeting. I asked 12 patients, Kevin McMahon (Bariatric Nurse), Gillian Dick (Dietetic Health Promotion Practitioner), and Lee Rogerson (Secretary) to attend. We had a great turnout and followed up with monthly meetings until the date of the event (6 meetings).

Everyone agreed the event should be called ‘Recipe for success’. This would tie in with the health and celebratory theme, as well as the new recipe book we produced for pre and post bariatric surgical patients called ‘Recipes for Life’. It was agreed that the conference should be a half day held around the beginning of November 2015. We decided it would feel more special if the event was in a Hotel. The patients chose Gailes Hotel, Irvine.

To further support the running of the event, the patients decided to have a fundraising night and successfully raised over £400 to help with room decorations and patient packs.

InvitationThe Audience:

The group came to the decision that patients and a friend or family member would be invited to the conference. It was suggested that clinicians involved in the bariatric patient pathway would also be invited and that this this would include GP’s and the hospital staff.

400 invitations were printed and included a Barcode that patients could scan on a smart phone (Mii tuu) to leave comments and suggestions regarding the day and/or share their story:

I did not envisage the level of Communication required between everyone involved in the Conference from presenters to planning group. 300 invites were sent out to patients and whilst we had a few responses there was not a lot. As a result I decided to phone everyone who had not responded. This increased our numbers greatly as an explanation helped people understand the reason for the event and it encourage them to attend.

The Programme:

We discussed having six stalls:

  • Exercise on Referral (3 Local Authority areas),
  • The Recipe Book (Health Promotion Dietetic Team),
  • Jump Start (young person’s weight management programme), and
  • A beauty/reflexology stall.

Gillian Dick would also bring 2-days of meals displaying appropriate portion sizes (from the ‘Recipes for life -Bariatric Recipe Book’).

ProgrammeIt was thought that patient photographs and quotes of their feelings could be projected onto the screens within the function suite for people to view throughout the afternoon tea break. A Clinical Psychologist from London, Dr Jennifer Nash, who specialises in working with people with Emotional eating problems also agreed to make a short film to show at the event. Together we also decided that inspirational music should be a big part of the event and it would be played when people were arriving and during the tea break. I asked via the patient Facebook page if there was anyone willing to sing. I was amazed by the response and before long we had a choir planning to sing ‘The Climb’ by Miley Cyrus.

The programme illustrated was sent to all who confirmed they wanted to attend.


Below are some of the things I learned from planning this event:

  • Plan in partnership in a truly co-productive way
  • Meet at least monthly for 6 months before, and keep in touch via email and phone
  • Some people may change their mind about telling their experience
  • Arrange meetings before the support group to encourage good attendance
  • Contact numerous venues and draw up a comparison chart
  • Invite a small core group of patients willing to help with planning
  • Keep notes and prepare items to discuss at meetings
  • Ask a graphic designer to design the invite and programme
  • Invite speakers to come to the meetings to give a taste of what they will be talking about at the event.
  • Arrange a suitable venue and invite speakers to come for a run through
  • Go to the venue in advance and trial all equipment
  • Use appropriate background music at breaks and on arrival

125 patients, friends/family and staff attended the event on Thursday 12th November 2015 from 12.30-5pm at Gailes Hotel, Irvine. Below is examples of the feedback received:

  • ‘Patients decided what they wanted and it was delivered’
  • ‘A different meaningful experience where every contribution was hard to make, however greatly appreciated’
Bariatric Conf 3
The audience enjoying the ‘Sit, Fit’ session accompanied by Abba’s ‘Super Trouper’
Daily Meal Plans.jpg
Daily meal plans displayed as normal and liquidised consistency

Next Steps:

We plan to discuss the conference at our Scottish Bariatric Group meeting and decide whether we could do this on a bigger scale for Scottish Bariatric Surgical patients.

The recipe book ‘Recipes for Life’ will soon be available to purchase to Dietitians in the UK through NDR-UK (Nutrition and Diet Resources UK).

Further Information:

Ccontact Pam Lindsay, Bariatric Dietitian 01292 614589


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