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GPs to be able to refer an extra 700,000 patients for weight management

by Sofia Lind and Jess Hacker
5 March 2021

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The Government has announced a £70m investment to tackle obesity, via a new GP enhanced service and 700,000 extra adults accessing weight management services.

An additional £30m will be spent on healthy weight initiatives and campaigns, with a proportion also going towards upskilling healthcare professionals, the Government announced.

The news comes on the back of the Government’s obesity strategy, published last July, in which it had expressed a wish for obesity indicators to be added to the QOF this year.

Although NICE proposals for new indicators were pushed back by opposition from the BMA’s GP Committee, the BMA is in talks with NHS England about the introduction of a new enhanced service on obesity and weight management during 2021/22.

A primary care bulletin from NHS England this afternoon stated that the funding boost includes:

  • ‘additional investment for a digital weight management programme for people with obesity and diabetes and/or hypertension, which will be implemented from April 2021;
  • the development of a proposed GP enhanced service; and
  • investment to develop Tier 3 and 4 services’.

Meanwhile, the Government said the funding would enable ‘up to 700,000 adults’ access to ‘support that can help them to lose weight, from access to digital apps, weight management groups or individual coaches, to specialist clinical support’.

It also said healthcare professionals in early years and childhood would be ‘upskilled’ to help ‘up to 6,000 children and families to lead healthy lives’.

Announcing the investment, the Department of Health and Social Care said: ‘This funding will support GPs and other health professionals to help make weight management an integral part of routine care.

‘It will encourage clinicians to have conversations about weight with their patients and enable them to refer patients to new services.’

However, with 28% of England’s population estimated to be obese, some 1.6 million patients could require a referral to a weight management service – not accounting for a further 36% estimated to be overweight.

Opposing NICE’s draft proposal for new QOF indicators last year – which had suggested GPs should refer all obese patients for weight management services – BMA had highlighted ‘major’ concerns with a lack of referral options.

Health secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘These measures will allow us to work with local authorities and optimise different areas of our healthcare services to encourage healthy behaviours for all.’

He added that the ‘urgency’ of tackling obesity ‘has been brought to the fore by evidence of the link to an increased risk from Covid-19′.

This story first appeared on our sister title, Pulse.