NHS to fund Weight Watchers classes to tackle obesity crisis

May 28, 2014

Doctors told to use a 'non-judgemental' tone and help obese people to lose just 3% body weight

Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Doctors have been urged to prescribe state-funded slimming programmes for obese patients – including those run by companies such as Weight Watchers and Slimming World.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) has published new guidance, which recommends that GPs should be able to commission or recommend programmes that can cost more than £100 per patient and last at least three months.

The guidance suggests that patients should aim to lose three per cent of their body weight, as even the loss of just a few pounds would cut blood pressure and reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes and some cancers. However, it adds that patients should be told that the more weight they lose, the greater the health benefits.

Gill Fine, a public health nutritionist who led the team devising the guidelines, told the BBC: "If people think they've got to lose over a stone, they don't lose a stone and they get disheartened and they go back up – that isn't going to help them.

"But if they can just lose a little bit, keep that weight off then that is going to give them a health benefit."

One in four adults are now obese, according to Nice, while a further two fifths of men and one third of women are overweight. The long-term consequences of obesity place a huge strain on the NHS, and cost around £5.1bn each year.

The guidance also advises doctors and NHS workers to be aware of the "stigma" around obesity, warning that an insensitive approach could actually harm a patient's chances of losing weight. Health professionals should take a "non-judgemental" tone when dealing with obese patients, it says.

People with a body mass index (BMI) of more than 30, and therefore classed as obese, will be prioritised for weight-loss programmes, but overweight patients with a BMI between 25 and 30 should also be referred "where there is capacity".

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