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GPs left to manage obese patients as award-winning service scrapped

An award-winning weight management service in Rotherham has been completely cut as a result of slashed public health budgets.

The Rotherham Institute for Obesity has provided adult and child weight management services since 2009.

Dr Matt Capehorn, a GP and clinical manager at the Institute said the service was decommissioned after a consultation process despite support from the public, MPs, and local press.

And although a much reduced weight loss advice programme was supposedly still available, the provider dropped out leaving patients and GPs with no service at all from this month.

The Rotherham weight loss model had been lauded by NICE and the Department of Health and Social Care as best practice.

But the £1m service – which included both specialist, community and prevention programmes - was stopped after the local authority found itself unable to balance the books, Dr Capehorn said.

GPs are now expected to manage all patients - except those with severe obesity – themselves.

Public health budgets are coming under increasing pressure after funding was cut by £531 million between 2015/16 and 2019/2020.

The Rotherham Institute for Obesity, the first to provide a four-tier service which has since been hailed by experts, is now limited to doing research and treating private patients.

Dr Capehorn, who is also clinical director for the National Obesity Forum, says that patients in Rotherham are now being referred inappropriately for surgery before they are ready or had the opportunity to try other options such as weight loss medication or talking therapy because other services do not exist.

‘We were given three months notice that the whole service was being decommissioned,’ he said.

‘Practically speaking we are back to the days when we had nowhere for patients to go.’

Dr Capehorn has just submitted written evidence to a parliamentary inquiry after concerns were raised that more weight management services were being decommissioned than new services set up.

‘We cannot understand why this has happened when the experts say obesity should be a priority and Public Health England say it should be a priority.’

Teresa Roche, director for public health at Rotherham Council, said they were committed to tackling obesity.

‘We believe strongly that it is far more effective to put more emphasis on prevention and early invention and deal with the issues before people become overweight or start smoking.

‘Both weight management and smoking cessation services will now be delivered through a new integrated lifestyle and behaviour change service called "Get Healthy Rotherham".' 

Readers' comments (7)

  • doctordog.

    It’s easy to decommission services.
    Just transfer responsibility to the local authority, and they will divert funds elsewhere and shut down the service on the pretext of lack of funds.

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  • Eat less. Exercise more.
    I'll cry a tear when those four words are decommissioned
    Actually, "Eat less; exercise more" just slimmed the slogan from two sentences to one with figure-hugging semi-colon

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  • Agree Monty.
    There is nothing for GPs to manage here. Obesity is a lifestyle problem. Weight watchers or rosemary Connelly or just common sense.

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  • Took Early Retirement

    Quite: it is a personal choice/ darwinian issue. GPs have no role here.

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  • Dear All,
    in fact its even shorter and no semi colon. "Eat less". Arnold Schwarzenegger probably does enough exercise, his BMI is 30.5. Exercise is good but it converts fat and flab into bone and muscle.
    Rather than excuse them we need to treat obesity in the same way we treat other lifestyle excesses, like alcohol and smoking. its time to ostracise obesity and promote the only diet that works, the less food in your face diet.
    Paul C

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  • Make your food low carb so that you are able to 'eat less' , otherwise your diet will fail, as shown by the statstic that only 3% of people manage to lose weight and keep it off long term.

    Eat less and move more does not work, as long as your insulin levels remain high. If you lower your insulin levels then your set weight will fall.

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  • National Hopeless Service

    GPs wont be left to manage these patients society will be. This is a social issue as much as a medical one.

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