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Patients lose more than 8lbs with digital weight management programme

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The NHS Digital Weight Management Programme helps patients lose more than eight pounds, according to a new study.

The 12-week online plan offers diet and physical activity advice, alongside guidance and support to help achieve a healthy lifestyle with access via an app or online.

The programme is part of a raft of NHS measures which aim to support people to prevent or reduce incidence of type 2 diabetes and obesity.

The research shows that 63,937 people were referred to the scheme in its first year with 50 per cent taking up the offer and enrolling onto the service.

A total of 14,268 of those then went on to complete the programme (April 2021 to March 2022), with people who completed it losing 3.9kg or 8.59lbs over 12 weeks.

Of the 31,718 people who started the initiative, including those who did not complete, the average weight loss was 2.2kg or 4.85lbs.More than a third of the referrals were from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, with data showing it is helping those from deprived backgrounds, as well as those affected by health inequalities and at a higher risk of adverse outcomes associated with obesity.

Of the total referrals (63,937), 57 per cent of were women with an average age of 57 years. Over three quarters (77 per cent) of those referred were aged 40 to 69.

NHS National Clinical Director for Diabetes and Obesity, Dr Clare Hambling said: “These results are extremely encouraging and show that by combining the effectiveness of existing weight management services with an easy to access service available on your phone or computer, more people can be supported to improve their health.

“While this study looked at the initial 64,000 patients referred in the programme’s first year, we have now seen more than 358,000 referrals by GPs and it’s very encouraging to see so many people benefit from the NHS Digital Weight Management Programme.”

People are eligible for referral on to the 12-week programme if they have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more – lowered to 27.5 for people from Black, Asian and minority ethnicities – and are diagnosed with diabetes, hypertension or both.

Eligible people are triaged into three intervention levels, with more intensive support targeted at people with higher levels of risk – level 1 provides self-guided digital content and optional participation in group support sessions; the next level offers an additional 50 minutes of 1:1 coaching; and level 3 increases this to 100 mins of 1:1 personal coaching.

The research found that incorporating digital delivery weight management services could increase reach and enhance overall effectiveness.

As of March 2024, more than 358,000 referrals had been made to the NHS Digital Weight Management Programme.

Public Health Minister, Andrea Leadsom, said:“We know that two thirds of adults are overweight or living with obesity, so I am delighted to see how effective the NHS Digital Weight Management Programme is in helping people living with obesity to lose weight and improve their health.

“Services like this one are a vital tool for improving public health and easing pressures on our NHS from complex conditions.”

Other NHS weight management programmes include the Healthier You NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme, which identifies people at risk of developing type 2 diabetes and refers them onto a nine-month, evidence-based lifestyle change programme.

The health service also offers free NHS health checks to assess over 40s on their risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other conditions such as high blood pressure.

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