The NHS will be able to offer online weight management services using four digital platforms following recommendations from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).
To qualify for the new services, patients will have to meet the criteria for accessing weight management medication – i.e., have at least one weight-related comorbidity and a BMI of 35kg/m2 or more.
Following a clinical assessment, patients will then receive support from a multidisciplinary team of health professionals via the platforms Liva, Oviva, Roczen or Second Nature. Liva is available now to the NHS while the rest still require the relevant digital approvals from NHS England.
NICE estimates that up to 48,000 people could access the services and 145,000 clinical hours could be saved as a result.
Early evidence suggests that, for the digital platforms, weight loss is comparable at two years to that seen after face-to-face care, although evidence will be collected over the next four years to determine the cost-effectiveness of the apps.
The digital programmes also allow for the prescribing of weight loss drugs such as semaglutide or liraglutide, however this must be delivered in conjunction with healthy eating and exercise.
Access to weight management services varies throughout the country, with some people living in areas where there is no service at all and others in regions with long waiting lists.
The introduction of digital services will help narrow this health inequality and those who either cannot or would rather not travel for appointments.
Health secretary, Steve Barclay, said: “Technology is transforming healthcare and helping to cut NHS waiting times – one of the government’s five priorities.”
He continued: “The use of apps in weight management services will improve access to support that, alongside life-changing drugs, can help tackle obesity – which costs the NHS billions every year and is the second biggest cause of cancer.”
A 10-day consultation on the four platforms has been opened by NICE.
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