An anaesthetist at Whanganui hospital wants patients going for elective surgery to go further than just being prepared to go under the knife.

The Whanganui DHB and Sport Whanganui have launched a new programme to help patients lose weight and improve their fitness levels before elective surgery.

And Whanganui DHB's head anaesthetist Dr Marco Meijer wants those patients to use the way they get fit before surgery as a blueprint for how they should live after surgery.

"The aim of the Fit for Surgery, Fit for Life programme is to bring about a lifestyle change that will see significantly overweight patients reduce their weight and lift their fitness levels for surgery while continuing to maintain these changes for the rest of their life," Meijer said.

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Meijer was concerned overweight patients increased the risk of having slow recovery after general anaesthetic as well as having blood clots, breathing difficulties, wound infections and complications with pain relief, during and after surgery.

He has established a project group to develop a programme that would aim to give long-term benefits for patients.

"Hospital staff and GPs refer patients to Sport Whanganui where Fit for Surgery, Fit for Life navigator and registered nurse Christine Taylor assesses the patients and develops individual care plans which include referrals to appropriate services to optimise their health prior to hip or knee surgery."

Taylor said she would provide advice and motivation to the patient as well as directing them to other services such as a dietician or a physio where needed.

The Fit for Surgery, Fit for Life programme is applied to patients who are candidates for elective hip and knee surgery.

Meijer said there were plans to roll the programme out for further elective operations in the near future.

In the three weeks since the programme was launched, almost 10 patients have been referred to Sport Whanganui.

The DHB expected that number to grow steadily as the programme was extended to other surgical specialities.