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GPs should record every patient's BMI as part of long-term NHS strategy, says PHE

Public Health England wants GPs to measure and record patients’ BMI routinely as part of a future strategy to cut adult obesity rates.

PHE called for obesity to become one of three key priority areas in the NHS long-term plan, alongside cardiovascular disease and smoking.

The NHS plan, which is still under development by the Government, will set out how £20bn extra funding announced by Prime Minister Theresa May earlier this year will be spent.

A statement from PHE said that ‘making it routine for people to have their BMI measured and recorded in primary care and pharmacy settings will provide an opportunity for healthcare professionals to give advice, promoting national guidance on diet and physical activity’.

But this comes as the BMA’s GP Committee has rejected a new QOF indicator, approved by NICE in 2016, which would have seen GPs record BMIs in patients aged over 18, every five years.

PHE said the adult obesity strategy should build on the existing plan to halve the rate of childhood obesity by 2020 and include a renewed commitment to the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme.

PHE further wants a long-term plan for CVD to prevent 250-500 deaths each year by prioritising the identification of people at risk due to high blood pressure, high cholesterol and atrial fibrillation.

It said this could prevent more than 9,000 heart attacks and at least 14,000 strokes in the next three years, and should include encouraging patients to participate in the NHS Health Check programme.

The statement said the NHS should ‘work to normalise the conversations we have about blood pressure, striving for a nation where everyone can recall their blood pressure numbers as easily as their pin number’.

The news comes as PHE’s new ‘heart age calculator’ has caused workload concern among GPs for encouraging anyone over 30 who doesn’t know their cholesterol levels and blood pressure to have a check-up.

Further, PHE wants the NHS long-term plan to commit to achieving a smoke-free society by 2030 and a population prevalence of less than 5%.

It said smoking ‘should no longer be seen as a lifestyle choice; but as an addiction that warrants medical treatment’, with everyone who smokes offered the support they need to quit.

PHE chief executive Duncan Selbie said: ‘These three priorities are where the NHS and PHE should focus efforts. It is not that other priorities won’t matter, but these will need to matter most.'

In order to succeed, he said the NHS ‘must engage the public directly in the choices they are making about their own health and wellbeing’. 

BMA GP Committee clinical and prescribing policy lead Dr Andrew Green said: 'I am quite happy for other parts of primary care to routinely measure BMI should they wish. However, I regard my scales as being an item of medical equipment which I employ only when I believe it will provide me with information that I don’t already know and which will be of help to me in managing the patient.

'The use of the word "routine" makes me suspect they are suggesting a screening programme, which should go through the National Screening Committee for tests of medical and economic value, and which would fall outside GMS.'

Readers' comments (16)

  • If this is a public health strategy the funding needs to come directly into primary care to fund this. Otherwise they can pay for their own technicians to do it for every patient in the country grrrrrr

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  • We tend to record the weights of people who are overweight, those who attend a lot, and not those who are thinner and fitter. Getting everyone's weight recorded is a good and dirty way of making the average weight appear lower, so that some politician can spout how successful they have been.

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  • David Banner

    Dr Andrew Green’s comments are fantastic, this man actually gets it. We weigh people when we think it is clinically appropriate, not just drag everyone in kicking and screaming (and blocking non-existent appointments) to record their BMI so as to make the stats look better.
    More power to you sir!

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  • Most people know if they're fat or not. Its just that they live such miserable existences doing awful jobs in depressing communities that all they want to do is get drunk on a weekend and eat junk food and healthy living is not on their agenda.

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  • Sure just open up more blame to the GPs and give them more targets to pretend that the nanny state is actually doing something useful instead of asking people to take responsibility for their own health.People know if they are fat or thin.

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  • PHE seem to labour under the impression that it is impossible to know who is obese and who is not without measuring weight and height.
    Sometimes I think they might spend too long with their spreadsheets.

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  • Took Early Retirement

    Did not some other person of low merit suggest this about 20 years ago?

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  • I've just seen 25 SICK patients this morning. So PHE just SHUT UP.

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