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MPs demand obesity quality payments

The new GMS contract has been heavily criticised by the influential Commons health select committee for failing to include financial incentives for management of obesity.

In a report published last week, committee members said the lack of incentives for GPs to manage and treat obesity was 'deplorable'.

The report highlighted evidence given to the committee by Dr Ian Campbell, a GP in Nottingham and chair of the National Obesity Forum. He rejected Government claims that the quality framework gives sufficient priority to health promotion.

Of the 1,050 quality points available, GPs earn just three for measuring BMI – and none at all for treating obesity, he pointed out.

But GPC negotiator Dr Andrew Dearden said obesity had been omitted from the framework because there was no solid evidence base to show which GP interventions actually improved outcome.

'There's no reason why obesity couldn't be an enhanced service,' Dr Dearden added.

'The new contract is flexible enough to do what the Government want – if they want it enough to pay for it.'

The select committee warned that obesity has not been a high enough priority for PCTs and recommended there should be at least one specialist primary care obesity clinic within each trust area so GPs can refer patients who need specialist support.

The report also called for a national service framework dealing specifically with obesity.

Dr Campbell said improvements to obesity services were achievable if targeted training was offered to interested GPs in each PCT.

But PCTs were criticised by the select committee for failing to comply with NICE guidance on NHS funding for obesity drugs orlistat and sibutramine, after the committee heard GPs were coming under pressure to cut their use of the drugs to reduce costs.

'I received a letter from my PCT saying that as a PCT we were quite high in our use of weight-loss medication and we were to consider our practice policies,' said Dr Campbell.

Responding to the report, Health Secretary John Reid said strategies to tackle obesity would be included in his white paper on public health, due in July.

By Emma Wilkinson

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