NHS support sees people lose the weight of 43 ambulances

People finishing the world leading NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme have lost the equivalent weight of 43 ambulances.

Around four million people in the UK live with type two diabetes, with diabetes and its complications costing the NHS more than £10 billion to treat every year.

89,604 people have now finished the programme, losing a combined weight of 185,051kg.

The world first service is the first of its kind to have achieved a full national roll-out.

With expert advice on dieting, exercise and healthy lifestyle, the programme will double in size to treat around 200,000 people every year as part of the NHS Long Term Plan.

Complications from the disease can include blindness and foot amputations.

Around nine out of 10 people with diabetes have type 2 and there were over a million obesity diagnoses in hospital patients last year.

Projections show that the growing number of people with diabetes could result in nearly 39,000 people living with diabetes suffering a heart attack in 2035 and over 50,000 people suffering a stroke and one in six hospital beds are occupied with someone with diabetes.

A lack of exercise, poor diet and being overweight are all risk factors for developing the disease.

Professor Jonathan Valabhji, NHS national clinical director for obesity and diabetes, said: “Around two-thirds of adults and one-third of children are now overweight or obese, driving higher and higher rates of type 2 diabetes that we are now focusing huge efforts to prevent as part of our NHS Long Term Plan.

“Helping people avoid diabetes is potentially life-saving, so these results are encouraging, but ultimately the NHS cannot win the fight against obesity alone, which is why we are providing people with the tools to help themselves – changing lives and freeing up vital NHS resources.”

The 9-12 month programme is designed to stop or delay the onset of the illness through a range of personalised lifestyle interventions, including:

  • Education on lifestyle choices
  • Advice on how to reduce weight through healthier eating
  • Bespoke physical activity programmes

The NHS said that people can take small steps to take control of their health and lifestyles.

The increasing numbers of people receiving help from the programme come alongside an announcement last year that people can now benefit from digital services, including wearable tech and online peer support groups, to help more people to benefit from the programme.

Helen Dickens, Assistant Director of Policy and Campaigns at Diabetes UK, said: “The number of people who are living with obesity in England has almost doubled in the last 20 years. As obesity accounts for 80 to 85% of your risk of type 2 diabetes – programmes such as these are key to helping people prevent or delay the onset of the condition.

“The NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme, however, is so much more than just a weight loss programme. It has helped thousands of people find out more about their risk of type 2 diabetes as well as take action to reduce it.

“It’s important to remember that weight is just one of the risk factors for type 2 diabetes. Others include ethnicity, family history and age. We recommend everyone to use our free Know Your Risk tool to find out your risk of type 2 diabetes.”

Dr Jenifer Smith, Deputy Medical Director at Public Health England, said: “It’s encouraging to see the early success of this programme which is helping so many people around the country make healthier choices, equipping them to better deal with what is one of the biggest health challenges facing the nation. It shows what can be done when organisations work together. Going forward we need to do more to reach out to those who may feel the programme is not for them, including some ethnic minority groups, who we know experience large inequalities in health.”

Michael Horton, 41, a warehouse specialist from the Midlands was referred into the programme after frequent takeaways and high sugar drinks left him with a raised BMI and blood sugar levels.

Halfway through the programme, Michael has already lost an incredible 20kg, Michael said: “I lost seven inches off my waist and feel so much better, less tired, and generally happier in myself.

“I was scared when I first received my blood tests, I knew nothing about the condition, other than that my mum had health complications from having the disease, it was a real wake up call, understanding that it develops into sometimes insurmountable health problems, that was my motivation to keep going and find a healthier balance in my life.”

The success of the Diabetes Prevention Programme builds on wider measures to tackle both type 1 and type 2 diabetes in the NHS Long Term Plan.

Around 30,000 people with type 1 diabetes have already benefited from life-changing technology – wearable glucose monitors – since it was made available widely on the NHS earlier this year.