NHS England’s action on obesity

Commenting on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s data in its latest Health At A Glance Europe 2014 report, which shows 24.7 per cent of British adults are obese compared with an average of 16.7 per cent in the rest of Europe, Simon Stevens, the Chief Executive of NHS England, said: “The ghost of Christmases past reminds us that 20 years ago we didn’t have these problems as a nation. The ghost of Christmases future tells us that if we get our act together – as the NHS, as parents, as schools, the food industry – we can get back in shape.

“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 isn’t.

“That’s why 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.

“We know that for people at risk, losing just 5-7% of your weight can cut your chance of diabetes by nearly 60%. If this was a pill we’d be popping it – instead its a well designed programme of exercise, eating well and making smart health choices, and we’re going to start making it available free on the NHS.”

More information

  • Independent research earlier this year found that obesity now costs the British taxpayer more than police, prisons and fire service combined. It is clear that, as a society, if we are going to continue to deliver world class public services and look after the health of the population as a whole, we are going to have to do more to address this. As part of this, from January 2015 we will working with PHE and Diabetes UK, alongside local politicians to develop the first ever national programme to prevent the growth of diabetes.
  • We will take action to become the first country to implement at scale a national evidence-based diabetes prevention programme, based on proven UK and international models, and linked where appropriate to the NHS Health Check. We are inviting those local areas that have made greatest strides in developing preventative diabetes programmes to register their interest (at by the end of January 2015 in joining with us as partners to co-design a new national programme led by Public Health England, NHS England and Diabetes UK.
  • Although many prevention programmes are likely to pay off only in the longer term, some have more immediate impacts. These include diabetes prevention, which evidence suggests could begin to show returns in as little as three years. Helping pregnant women to quit smoking produces impact within months, including reduced costs of complex deliveries, still births etc. Action on alcohol could also produce fairly immediate savings, particularly for harmful drinkers and dependent drinkers. We need to combine these actions with a more immediate payback together with those that are nevertheless worth doing but have a longer period of return.