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GPs should record every patient’s BMI as part of long-term NHS strategy, says PHE

Public Health England wants GPs to measure and record patients’ BMI routinely as part of a future strategy to cut adult obesity rates.

PHE called for obesity to become one of three key priority areas in the NHS long-term plan, alongside cardiovascular disease and smoking.

The NHS plan, which is still under development by the Government, will set out how £20bn extra funding announced by Prime Minister Theresa May earlier this year will be spent.

A statement from PHE said that ‘making it routine for people to have their BMI measured and recorded in primary care and pharmacy settings will provide an opportunity for healthcare professionals to give advice, promoting national guidance on diet and physical activity’.

But this comes as the BMA’s GP Committee has rejected a new QOF indicator, approved by NICE in 2016, which would have seen GPs record BMIs in patients aged over 18, every five years.

PHE said the adult obesity strategy should build on the existing plan to halve the rate of childhood obesity by 2020 and include a renewed commitment to the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme.

PHE further wants a long-term plan for CVD to prevent 250-500 deaths each year by prioritising the identification of people at risk due to high blood pressure, high cholesterol and atrial fibrillation.

It said this could prevent more than 9,000 heart attacks and at least 14,000 strokes in the next three years, and should include encouraging patients to participate in the NHS Health Check programme.

The statement said the NHS should ‘work to normalise the conversations we have about blood pressure, striving for a nation where everyone can recall their blood pressure numbers as easily as their pin number’.

The news comes as PHE’s new ‘heart age calculator’ has caused workload concern among GPs for encouraging anyone over 30 who doesn’t know their cholesterol levels and blood pressure to have a check-up.

Further, PHE wants the NHS long-term plan to commit to achieving a smoke-free society by 2030 and a population prevalence of less than 5%.

It said smoking ‘should no longer be seen as a lifestyle choice; but as an addiction that warrants medical treatment’, with everyone who smokes offered the support they need to quit.

PHE chief executive Duncan Selbie said: ‘These three priorities are where the NHS and PHE should focus efforts. It is not that other priorities won’t matter, but these will need to matter most.’

In order to succeed, he said the NHS ‘must engage the public directly in the choices they are making about their own health and wellbeing’. 

BMA GP Committee clinical and prescribing policy lead Dr Andrew Green said: ‘I am quite happy for other parts of primary care to routinely measure BMI should they wish. However, I regard my scales as being an item of medical equipment which I employ only when I believe it will provide me with information that I don’t already know and which will be of help to me in managing the patient.

‘The use of the word “routine” makes me suspect they are suggesting a screening programme, which should go through the National Screening Committee for tests of medical and economic value, and which would fall outside GMS.’


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