GPs will be able to refer patients into a new NHS online weight management service that launches today.
The NHS Digital Weight Management Programme, backed by £12m of Government funding, will offer free online support to adults living with obesity who also have a diagnosis of either diabetes, high blood pressure or both, to help manage their weight and improve their health, according to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).
GPs and primary care teams can refer patients to the service, which is expected to benefit ‘thousands’ of people across England, according to NHS England.
Earlier this month, NHS England announced £20m of new funding for the new weight management GP enhanced service, which the digital programme comes under, and offered practices the voluntary opportunity to sign up to the scheme.
Practices that sign up to the DES will be paid £11.50 per patient living with obesity who is referred to eligible weight management services – but will be set an ‘allocation’ that will limit the number they can refer.
NHS England previously said its digital weight management service should become the default for obese patients with hypertension and or diabetes and will have capacity for up to 270,000 patients in this financial year.
GPs can also refer to local authority-funded tier 2 weight management services, the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme or tier 3 or 4 services.
Alongside this programme, the Government is providing £30 million of new funding to councils across England to roll out expanded management services for adults living with obesity. Services can be delivered face to face, remotely or digitally, according to the DHSC.
It said an additional £4.3 million of new funding has also been allocated to 11 local authorities to support the expansion of child weight management services in 2021/22.
Public health minister Jo Churchill said: ‘We want to make the healthier option the easy option, but we still know losing weight can be difficult for people. Making sure the right support is available means that we can help individuals make the most of the positive impact that reaching a healthier weight can have both physically and mentally. The benefit is theirs.
‘It’s really important we help people access services that are convenient for them and tailored to their needs. By expanding virtual and face-to-face weight management support across the country, we’re bringing improved health and wellbeing closer to home.’
Following the announcement of the weight management DES, the BMA pronounced it to be ‘fundamentally flawed’, both clinically and practically.
The BMA branded the new service as micromanagement, which fails to put trust in GP and will make little difference to the country’s obesity crisis.