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Weight management schemes cut obesity and save money

By Lilian Anekwe

GP referral of obese patients to a weight management programme works and is cost-effective, according to an evaluation of a pilot scheme.

NHS South West Essex funded a scheme allowing GPs to refer obese patients to a weight management scheme. GPs at 28 surgeries in Basildon and Thurrock referred 437 patients with a BMI ?28k/m2 to one of two 12 week programmes during the pilot period between October 2007 and May 2008. Motivated patients could then be referred for a further 12 weeks.

56% of patients attending a Weight Watchers programme and 54% of those attending sessions at Slimming World lost 5% of more of the total body weight, with a mean weight loss of 5.6kgs.

A 5-10% weight reduction is recommended in NICE guidance on obesity, and for overweight patients with diabetes and other cardiovasacular diseases.

Dr Neel Bhaduri, public health commissioner at NHS South West Essex, said: ‘The weight reduction of clients within both programmes suggest that lifestyle changes followed by regular GP monitoring have been adopted by the vast majority of people referred.'

The evaluation was presented at the European Congress of Obesity in Amsterdam this month, along with a modelling study of the Weight Watchers programme that found GP referral schemes for weight management would ‘result in considerable savings to Government and improvement in health outcomes for individiduals.'

Based on data from over 4,000 patients, researchers from the University of Oxford predicted a 12-week intervention would save £1,860 per intervention per person.

Assuming a 50% drop out rate and a 25% success rate, weight management programmes could reduce the risk of diabetes for participants by 20% and the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease or arthritis by 5%.

Weight management schemes help cut obesity and save money

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