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GPs will have to screen the entire adult population for obesity under new Government plans.

The Department of Health expects GPs to weigh every patient between the ages of 15 and 75 who visits their surgery and offer lifestyle advice to those who are overweight or obese.

The department made clear its determination to place GPs at the frontline of the fight against obesity in its delivery plan on the public health White Paper. GP screening is included as a local delivery plan target for PCTs, meaning GPs will be under pressure from trusts to comply.

A spokeswoman said: 'We are asking GPs to report on the proportion of people who are obese. It's for us to keep an eye on the picture nationally, but GPs can screen patients who come in for appointments.'

The GPC reacted angrily to the plan, saying it would damage the doctor-patient relationship and insisting new work had to mean new remuneration.

The department confirmed that points for managing obesity would be on the agenda during negotiations over the next draft of the quality framework, as first reported by Pulse last September.

GPs will have to notify the department on numbers of obese patients and offer referral to health trainers. Each PCT will have to guarantee access to obesity services.

The department also said it wanted to see 'better management' of blood pressure and cholesterol by GPs and a nationwide roll-out of pedometer prescribing (see box left).

But GPC negotiator Dr

Peter Holden called the plans 'half-baked'. He said: 'We are not the health police. You have to consider what it will do to the doctor-patient relationship – I did not qualify as a nag, I qualified as a GP.

'To weigh people scientifically they have to be in their underwear – we don't have the staff or the chaperones. If they want this they will have to resource it.'

Dr Peter Brindle, a Wellcome fellow in health services research and a GP in Bristol, said obesity was a social problem and the Government was 'passing the buck' to GPs.

Dr David Haslam, chair of the National Obesity Forum and a GP in Hertfordshire, welcomed the plan and said he would be discussing the best way to introduce obesity points.

Key role for GPs in

White Paper

delivery plan

•GPs to screen patients aged 15 to 75 for obesity and offer lifestyle advice

•National roll-out of pedometer prescribing

•Referral through obesity care pathways for dietetic programmes and surgery

•Access to obesity services to be available in all PCTs

•GPs to put together practice registers of patients at risk of CHD

•New register for patients who are both smokers and obese

By Nerys Hairon

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