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NHS Urged To Send Obese To Slimming Clubs
Obese and overweight people should be sent to slimming clubs on the NHS, according to official new guidance.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice)†advice says sending people on "lifestyle weight management programmes" will save the health service money.
The 61-page document, sent out to doctors and local authorities, says 12-week programmes costing £100 or less can be cost-effective.
It said approved schemes must be proven to be effective at 12 to 18 months, which it said Slimming World, Rosemary Conley and Weight Watchers had shown they were.
While acknowledging there is "no magic bullet" to the "complex" problem, the guidance says the 64% of the population classed as obese or overweight can enjoy significant health benefits by losing as little as 3% of their weight.
Carol Weir, guidance developer for Nice and head of nutrition and dietetics at Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust, said Nice recognised the difficulties people faced losing weight and the "significant" effort required to prevent a regain of the weight once lost.
"Obviously, if you need to lose weight, the more weight you lose the better, and the health benefits derive from that, but even a 3% loss, kept up long term, is beneficial and that is why we are recommending sensible changes that can be sustained life long," she said.
"It is not something where you can just wake up one morning and say 'I am going to lose 10lbs' - it takes resolve, it takes encouragement, and one of the things about involvement in these programmes is the mutual support from others who try to do the same thing seems to be hugely helpful from a motivational point of view."
Professor Mike Kelly, director of the Public Health Centre at Nice, said obesity was costing the British economy and the NHS £5.1bn a year and that only smoking was a bigger health issue for the country.
"Many of the gains we've made by having a population who smoke in much lower numbers than 40-50 years ago - many of those benefits, particularly with respect to heart disease, are being lost by the additional risks that come as a consequence of overweight and obesity," he said.
Obesity increases the risk of serious conditions including diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. Statistics show more than a quarter of adults in England are now classified as obese, while 42% of men and 32% of women are overweight.
Under the guidance issued by Nice, GPs have been told to raise the issue of weight loss in a "respectful and non-judgemental" way and identify people who are eligible for referral for lifestyle weight management services by measuring their Body Mass Index (BMI).
Public Health England and other agencies should be a national source of information on effective lifestyle weight management programmes suitable for commissioning, it said.