People struggling to lose weight will now be offered help from their local high street pharmacy as part of the NHS’s radical action to tackle rising obesity levels and type 2 diabetes.
Community pharmacy teams can now refer adults living with obesity, and other conditions, to the twelve-week online NHS weight management programme.
People are being urged to come forward and community pharmacies are expected to make hundreds more referrals in the coming weeks in addition to the several hundred already made.
GPs have already referred over 50,000 adults living with obesity at risk of developing weight-related conditions. People will be able to start the programme within 10 days of visiting their local pharmacy, with support for some people including one-to-one coaching from a weight loss expert.
Adults living with obesity plus hypertension or diabetes will qualify for the service, which people can access via an app on their smartphone or online.
People from Black, Asian and Minority ethnic backgrounds can join the programme at a lower BMI of 27.5, due to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
Three in five adults in England are overweight, with more than one in four living with obesity.
Recent research found that people seeking NHS help to lose weight during the pandemic were on average five pounds heavier than those doing so during the previous three years.
Dr Bruce Warner, Deputy Chief Pharmaceutical Officer at NHS England, said:
“Obesity is a significant threat to the nation’s health – it increases your chance of dying from COVID and puts you at greater risk of stroke, cancer and other deadly disease.
“The NHS’s radical action plan means it is now easier for people to take control of their health – adults with obesity can now walk into any high street community pharmacy to take the first step on a life-changing weight loss journey”.
One of the core knock-on effects of obesity in this country is an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is estimated to cost the NHS £10 billion a year, with almost one in 20 GP prescriptions for a diabetes treatment.
Projections also show that the growing number of people with diabetes could result in nearly 39,000 extra people suffering a heart attack in 2035, and over 50,000 experiencing a stroke.
Robert Pettifer, a pharmacist in Warwickshire, said:
“Pharmacies play a vital role in the health and wellbeing of our communities, and it’s great that we can now refer people to this new weight loss programme.
“Trained pharmacy teams can support you on a journey to a healthier lifestyle – using simple online plans”.
All 11,000 pharmacies in England have a trained Healthy Living Champion who provides health information and signposts patients to relevant health services to enable them to live healthier lifestyles.
Trained staff in pharmacies will work with people who want to lose weight and signpost them to a range of resources and available support including the NHS weight management programme.
The NHS’s radical action to tackle rising obesity levels and type 2 diabetes is part of the NHS Long Term Plan which was launched in January 2019 and set out how the 3.4% five year NHS funding settlement would help put the NHS back onto a sustainable financial path.
Click here for more information about the Digital Weight Management Programme, including eligibility criteria.
Source: NHS / Public Health England