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NHS Digital Weight Management Programme backed by £12m

The NHS Digital Weight Management Programme has launched today, and is supported by a £12m government investment. The new service will provide free online support, carried out through GP and primary care teams.

Tens of thousands of adults and children living with obesity, and either diabetes, high blood pressure or both, are expected to benefit across England.

It aims to help patients better manage their weight and improve their health and wellbeing. Services will be available virtually and face to face, as well as additional pilot schemes being set up in 11 local areas for children and families.

The project is a collaborative effort between the NHS and local authorities, with hopes that the services could be better suited to adults living with obesity.

This is part of £100m further funding to support up to 700,000 adults and 6,000 children in accessing services that can help them lose weight. It will range from access to digital apps or weight management groups, or individual coaches.

Professor Jonathan Valabhji, NHS England’s National Clinical Director for Diabetes and Obesity, said: “The NHS Long-Term plan committed the NHS to a stronger focus in preventing illness and reducing the serious health concerns that people living with obesity can experience, including the higher risks of more severe outcomes with Covid.

“The new NHS Digital Weight Management Programme will offer online access to weight management services for tens of thousands of people living with obesity who also have diabetes or hypertension or both, with a strong focus on reducing health inequalities, improving quality of life and longer-term health outcomes.

Patients will be referred to NHS Digital’s Weight Management Programme by their GP practice, guided to a ‘Referral Hub’, and offered 1 of 3 levels of intervention. They then have a choice of the provider offering a 12-week digital weight management service, available in most areas. The service will include dietary advice, physical activity guidance, and support aimed at helping people start and maintain healthier habits.

In order to support the development of child weight management services in 2021 to 2022, the government will also fund an extra £4.3m to 11 local authorities.

Obesity can be a major risk factor for an individual’s health, and is a leading cause of preventable illnesses and premature deaths nationally. It costs the NHS £6bn a year, with almost two-thirds of adults in England living with excess weight or obesity. Figures have also shown that 1 in 3 children leave primary school overweight or live with obesity.

Dr Alison Tedstone, Chief Nutritionist at Public Health England, said: “Many of us have struggled throughout the pandemic and lockdowns to keep the pounds off and maintain a healthy weight. It’s vital that everyone can get support to lose weight if they need it, so it’s particularly timely and hugely welcome to see these new services opening.  

“The causes of obesity are linked to the places where we live, work and play, where all too often the food on offer and built environment can make it harder to choose the healthier options. That’s why Public Health England are also working with local authorities to help make local environments healthier and provide weight management support as part of the government’s wider national obesity strategy.

The government’s obesity strategy aims to halve the number of children living with obesity by 2030 through various initiatives, such as weight management services, restricting high fat, salt and sugar TV advertisements until after 9pm, as well as other plans.

Public Health Minister, Jo Churchill said: “We want to make the healthier option the easy option, but we still know losing weight can be difficult for people. Making sure the right support is available means that we can help individuals make the most of the positive impact that reaching a healthier weight can have both physically and mentally. The benefit is theirs.

“It’s really important we help people access services that are convenient for them and tailored to their needs. By expanding virtual and face-to-face weight management support across the country, we’re bringing improved health and wellbeing closer to home.

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