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NICE publishes new obesity referral guidance

GPs should focus on patients with a BMI over 30 for referrals to funded lifestyle weight management programmes, new NICE guidance says.

The new guidance, which was published in draft form last year, also prompts GPs to stress to patients that even small amounts of weight loss – as little as 3% – can help reduce the risk of developing obesity-related health conditions.

However, NICE has mainly focused on what components lifestyle programmes should contain in order to be effective. To be approved under the new guidance, programmes should: last at least three months with weigh-ins every week or fortnight; be run by trained staff including psychologists as well as dietitian and physical activity instructors; and address dietary intake, physical activity levels and behaviour change, as well as how to ensure change is long term.

The guidance says: ‘GP practices and other health or social care professionals who give advice about, or refer people to, lifestyle weight management programmes should be clear that no programme holds the ‘magic bullet’ or can guarantee long-term success. For funded referrals, it should be noted that: programmes may particularly benefit adults who are obese (that is, with a BMI over 30 kg/m2, or lower for those from black and minority ethnic groups) or with other risk factors (comorbidities such as type 2 diabetes).’

Gill Fine, independent public health nutritionist and chair of the group which developed the NICE guidance, said: ‘Obesity is one of the biggest health issues facing the UK. It’s a complex problem with no single solution, but programmes which aim to help people manage their weight can make a difference. What we have done in this new guidance is to identify the key components that need to be included in these programmes for them to be effective.’

‘These include setting realistic weight loss and weight maintenance goals, ensuring the programme is at least 12 weeks long and making sure the people running the programme are properly trained. We hope that these practical recommendations will help people make life-long lifestyle changes so they lose weight and most importantly help prevent those pounds from coming back.’

Read the full guidance here