An award-winning weight management service in Rotherham has been completely cut as a result of slashed public health budgets.
The Rotherham Institute for Obesity has provided adult and child weight management services since 2009.
Dr Matt Capehorn, a GP and clinical manager at the Institute said the service was decommissioned after a consultation process despite support from the public, MPs, and local press.
And although a much reduced weight loss advice programme was supposedly still available, the provider dropped out leaving patients and GPs with no service at all from this month.
The Rotherham weight loss model had been lauded by NICE and the Department of Health and Social Care as best practice.
But the £1m service – which included both specialist, community and prevention programmes – was stopped after the local authority found itself unable to balance the books, Dr Capehorn said.
GPs are now expected to manage all patients – except those with severe obesity – themselves.
Public health budgets are coming under increasing pressure after funding was cut by £531 million between 2015/16 and 2019/2020.
The Rotherham Institute for Obesity, the first to provide a four-tier service which has since been hailed by experts, is now limited to doing research and treating private patients.
Dr Capehorn, who is also clinical director for the National Obesity Forum, says that patients in Rotherham are now being referred inappropriately for surgery before they are ready or had the opportunity to try other options such as weight loss medication or talking therapy because other services do not exist.
‘We were given three months notice that the whole service was being decommissioned,’ he said.
‘Practically speaking we are back to the days when we had nowhere for patients to go.’
Dr Capehorn has just submitted written evidence to a parliamentary inquiry after concerns were raised that more weight management services were being decommissioned than new services set up.
‘We cannot understand why this has happened when the experts say obesity should be a priority and Public Health England say it should be a priority.’
Teresa Roche, director for public health at Rotherham Council, said they were committed to tackling obesity.
‘We believe strongly that it is far more effective to put more emphasis on prevention and early invention and deal with the issues before people become overweight or start smoking.
‘Both weight management and smoking cessation services will now be delivered through a new integrated lifestyle and behaviour change service called “Get Healthy Rotherham”.’