NHS will fund new national programme to help beat diabetes

Tens of thousands of obese Britons are to be offered “proper support” including special diets and exercise programmes in a new bid to stave off the threat of diabetes, the NHS has announced.

Simon Stevens, NHS England’s chief executive, said that doctors will now be tasked with spotting overweight patients and offering them treatment to lose weight, and companies will be encouraged to use financial incentives such as gift vouchers as a “nudge” to tempt workers into shedding excess pounds, he said.

The NHS boss was speaking ahead of the first ever national programme in England to prevent the growth of diabetes, amid mounting concerns over rising levels of obesity which have gone from 15 per cent to 25 per cent in the last 20 years.

The programme, which he claimed will be a world first in terms of being “evidence based”, will be drawn up by NHS England, Public Health England, and Diabetes UK in the New Year.

“If we get our act together - as the NHS, as parents, as schools, the food industry - we can get back in shape,” said Mr Stevens.

“The NHS is going to be funding a new national programme, proven to work, that will offer tens of thousands of people at risk of diabetes proper support to get healthier, eat better and exercise more,” he added.

It will centre on “exercise, eating well and making smart health choices, and we're going to start making it available free on the NHS”.

For those at risk of diabetes, losing less than 10 per cent of their weight can reduce the risk by nearly 60 per cent, Mr Stevens added.

Hitting out at a recent judgement by the European courts that obesity is a disability, he said: “Rather than recent daft judgements by the European court practically pretending that obesity is inevitable, in England in 2015 we're going to start proving that it isnt.”

More than three million people in Britain have diabetes and dealing with the disease costs the NHS around £10 billion every year.

Diabetes is a “major cause” of premature death in more than 22,000 people each year, yet "a significant proportion of these are preventable”, said Duncan Selbie, chief executive of PHE.

“We said we need to get serious about prevention, this programme will show we mean business,” he added.

The news was welcomed by the Royal College of Physicians, but Professor John Wass, RCP's vice-president, said: “There are not enough hospital services including bariatric surgery for obese people, and not enough help to prevent people becoming obese in the first place. We need both preventive public health measures and better services for people who are already obese.”

This comes in the wake of new figures released this month revealing Britain to be one of the fattest nations in the world, coming second to Hungary in a study of 35 European countries by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. One in four British adults are obese – far higher than the European average of 16.7 per cent, according to the report.