NICE recommendations for GPs to refer a quarter of all patients for weight management services could become a reality by next year.
The plans form part of the Government’s new obesity strategy, which was unveiled today.
The recommendations come as a PHE evidence review concluded that excess weight leads to a significantly higher risk of hospitalisation and death from Covid-19.
A draft new QOF indicator published by NICE earlier this month would see GP practice achievement measured on ‘the percentage of patients with a BMI ≥27.5 kg/m2 (or ≥30 kg/m2 if ethnicity is recorded as White) in the preceding 24 months who have been referred to a weight management programme within 90 days of the BMI being recorded’.
The Government’s obesity stategy said it ‘will be bringing forward a programme with incentives for GPs and referral pathways into weight management services in every local health care system’.
It added: ‘From 2021, we will work with the [BMA] and the [NICE] to implement incentives for doctors through the [QOF] to ensure everyone living with obesity are offered support for weight loss.’
The Government further said it would ‘encourage local authorities to expand their provision and where these services are not available’ so that ‘doctors can guide people to the free NHS 12-week plan, which we will develop and enhance over time drawing on new insights about what works’.
It said this would build on the ‘success’ of GP stop-smoking interventions and utilise practices’ position as the ‘first port of call’ for health advice and support.
Meanwhile, PCNs will be offered ‘the opportunity to equip their staff to become healthy weight coaches through training delivered by Public Health England’, the strategy document added.
Health secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘We know obesity increases the risk of serious illness and death from coronavirus – so it’s vital we take action on obesity to protect the NHS and improve our nation’s health.’
GPs have warned that the proposed new QOF inidicator could come with significant new workload to practice and place a huge burden on already overstretched weight management services, as over a quarter of the population is estimated to be obese.
The news comes as the RCGP was last month forced to apologise after branding Covid-19 as a ‘lifestyle’ disease in a conference title.
Other key actions in the Goverment’s latest obesity strategy
- A 9pm watershed on TV and online adverts for food high in sugar, fat and salt
- An end to ‘buy one get one free’ on unhealthy food
- The mandatory display of calories on menus, subject to a new consultation
- A consultation on labelling alcoholic drinks’ as ‘liquid calories’
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