Flagship NHS Type 2 Diabetes Prevention Programme exceeds expectations as patients shed the weight of 15 double cheese burgers

More than half of overweight patients who routinely attended sessions on the NHS Type 2 diabetes prevention programme achieved an average weight loss equivalent to nearly 15 double cheese burgers, new data has revealed.

So far well over 50% of people have completed the flagship scheme after attending at least eight support sessions over a nine month period – losing an average of 3.3 kgs. However, when excluding those who already had normal weight and BMI but on the programme due to other health and lifestyle risks associated with developing Type 2 diabetes, this increased to 3.7kg.

Diabetes and its complications cost over £6 billion every year to treat and one in six patients in hospital has diabetes. Around nine out of 10 people with diabetes have Type 2 diabetes which is closely linked to obesity and there is strong evidence that it is preventable.

A lack of exercise, poor diet and being overweight are all risk factors for developing the Type 2 disease over time. The prevention programme is designed to stop or delay onset through a range of personalised lifestyle interventions, including:

  • education on lifestyle choices, for example drinking less alcohol
  • advice on how to reduce weight through healthier eating
  • bespoke physical activity programmes

The early findings show the programme has exceeded expectations with patients losing an average of 1kg more than originally predicted.

Speaking at Diabetes UK’s Professional Conference (14 March), Simon Stevens, Chief Executive at NHS England, will say: “The NHS is already leading the way in the battle against the obesity crisis by slashing the sale of sugary drinks and super-sized snacks in hospitals, and the results now coming out of our diabetes prevention programme are also positive. Obesity is the new smoking and the scale of our response needs to match the scale of the crisis.”

Last year, the health chief ordered hospitals to take super-size chocolate bars and “grab bags” of sugary snacks off of the shelves in another step of the NHS plan to fight obesity, diabetes and tooth-decay. While data is still being collected, some of the headline results from some of the suppliers involved so far include:

  • A large hospital retailer removed advertising and promotions on NHS estates and has sold over 1.1m fewer single chocolate bars in the last year, and removed 275,000 fewer (23%) large bars of chocolate
  • 175,000 more pieces of fruit has been sold in hospital stores
  • The Royal Voluntary Society has worked with suppliers to make healthier sandwiches, that now account for more than half of the total sales
  • Another leading retailer has revealed 132 million calories have been removed from the top five sandwich products.

In adults, Mr Stevens, will reveal that three years after the diabetes prevention programme was first announced at the 2015 Diabetes UK conference, it is now on the verge of achieving complete national coverage. In the last 21 months of roll-out, more than 154,000 people have been referred, with around 66,000 people taking up places.

Just under half of those signing up are men – a much higher proportion than typically attend weight loss programmes, while roughly a quarter are from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, groups that are at significantly greater risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Since obesity is more prevalent among poorer communities, action to tackle it also directly reduces health inequalities.

The programme also recently launched digital support to patients so more than 5,000 people are expected to benefit from a pilot project. Five companies and eight areas of the country are test driving a range of apps, gadgets, wristbands and other innovative digital products and in the first two months around 800 people have been referred and more than half of those have logged onto a service since.

Professor Jonathan Valabhji, National Clinical Director for Diabetes and Obesity, at NHS England said: “While it is early days, this data from several thousand people is very promising. Not only is our prevention programme exceeding the initial targets set for referrals and equity of access, what we are now starting to see is the first set of encouraging weight loss results too. Type 2 diabetes is heavily linked to obesity and if those on our programme continue to lose weight, as this snapshot suggests, then it is a step in the right direction and this programme can be an effective part of the solution.”

Duncan Selbie, Public Health England Chief Executive said: “The diabetes prevention programme is working, and alongside other public health interventions like sugar reduction it will help to turn the tide on obesity. Diabetes is one of the key preventable illnesses, every year 22,000 people die early because of Type 2. Joined up action by NHS England, Diabetes UK and Public Health England on the prevention programme is putting people in control of their health with tools and information they need to make small lifestyle changes that significantly reduce their risk of the disease.”

The latest set of national clinical diabetes audits are also published today (14 March) and provide a comprehensive view of diabetes care in England and Wales. The National Diabetes Audit, 2016-17, shows treatment targets have been achieved for HbA1c, blood pressure and cholesterol for many, with one of the key findings revealing there has been more than a 10 per cent improvement in HbA1c for Type 1 diabetes over the last six years.

Last year, NHS England also invested around £42 million of national funding, which was used to advance the care and treatment diabetes patients receive and Mr Stevens is expected to confirm a further £40m for 2018/19 to drive improvements in future. This is expected to help fund:

  • an additional 94,000 structured education places a year being commissioned.
  • up to 864,000 additional interventions a year being undertaken with individual patients.
  • 185 additional staff appointed to new or expanded multidisciplinary foot care teams across around 80 hospital sites.
  • 96 additional inpatient specialist nurses and related staff in inpatient teams.