NHS to expand soups and shakes for people with type 2 diabetes

Thousands more people with type 2 diabetes across England will benefit from NHS soup and shake diets, as new data shows its effectiveness at helping people lose weight.

The radical programme, first piloted by the NHS in 2020 as part of its Long Term Plan, will expand so that it can provide access to patients in every part of the country by March 2024 – it is currently available in 21 areas of England.

Patients can benefit if they have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in the last six years with referrals made by local GPs.

Speaking at the Diabetes UK Professional Conference today, NHS England’s national clinical director for diabetes and obesity will set out the latest findings from the pilot, which show participants lost an average of over 13kg (two stone) in three months which was maintained at six months.

The data also shows, that by the end of the year long programme, people had lost 11kg on average (over 1.5 stone). Weight loss was similar to that seen in clinical trials, showing early promise that the programme might lead to remission in up to half of people with type 2 diabetes.

The programme kickstarts weight loss through low calorie, total diet replacement products such as shakes and soups for the first three months, supported and monitored by expert clinicians and coaches.

After this, a carefully managed plan reintroduces healthy, nutritious food and participants can track their progress through one-to-ones, group sessions and digital support – to help them maintain a healthier weight.

The expansion also follows the latest research from the Diabetes UK-funded Remission Clinical Trial (DiRECT) which showed that losing weight can put type 2 diabetes in remission for at least five years in some people.

Since the peak of the pandemic, local NHS areas have been given £36 million to help restore diabetes services to pre-pandemic levels.

Professor Jonathan Valabhji, NHS National Clinical Director for Diabetes and Obesity said: “Research is clear that weight loss where indicated goes a long way to helping people stay well and avoiding preventable illness, and in many cases it can be the trigger for putting type 2 diabetes into remission.

“So I am delighted that thousands more people are making use of this programme with thousands more set to benefit across England in the coming year.

“This programme is also the latest example of the NHS effectively deploying evidence-based treatments to help people with type 2 diabetes live well. Obesity is a significant factor and cause of several serious diseases, so the NHS is always here to help people to lose weight when necessary, and live healthier lives.”

One person who benefited from joining the NHS’s programme is Ingo from Windsor.

Ingo, said: “I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in May 2021 following a standard HbA1c blood test. I weighed 140kg and my waist was 126cm. Type 2 diabetes runs in my family and I knew I wanted to defeat my diagnosis as soon as possible. My GP recommended the NHS Type 2 Diabetes Path to Remission Programme.

“I was determined to put my type 2 diabetes into remission, so I took the programme extremely seriously. During the total diet replacement phase, I followed all the advice given and was guided and motivated throughout; I had one shake every four hours, which gave me the perfect structure to work with and, as you begin to see the results, it is very rewarding. Making changes is difficult but the ongoing support makes it easier.

“I recently went for my annual check and I was ecstatic with the results. Since my initial diagnosis, I have lost 47kg and am now 92kg, I have lost 27cm from my waist and I have reduced my HbA1c by nearly 30mmol/mol to 36mmol/mol. I have lost one third of my body weight and I now have a good relationship with myself and food. I don’t feel guilty if I have a treat, but I am always mindful about what I do eat. It has been an enormous change for me – and I have bought a whole new wardrobe of clothes.”

Health Minister Neil O’Brien said: “We’re supporting new and innovative ways being offered to help those living with type 2 diabetes and obesity, as we know how difficult it can be for some people to manage their weight.

“For people living with obesity, weight loss can lead to significant health benefits, including remission from type 2 diabetes, and it’s important we offer a wide array of services that are convenient and tailored to those looking to manage their weight.

“This builds on the good work done by the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme – which has helped over 18,000 people avoid this disease – and our upcoming Major Conditions Strategy, which will cover type 2 diabetes and reduce pressure on the NHS.”

Chris Askew OBE, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK, said: “We are thrilled to see that NHS England’s Type 2 Diabetes Path to Remission Programme will be rolled out across the whole of England, giving thousands more people the chance to put their type 2 diabetes into remission.

“Remission from type 2 diabetes can be life-changing but we know weight loss is really hard and getting the right support is critical. For those who aren’t able to go into remission, losing weight can still lead to major health benefits, including improved blood sugar levels, and reduced risk of serious diabetes complications such as heart attack and stroke.

“Today’s important announcement is the result of over a decade of research funded by Diabetes UK, and we are proud that our ground-breaking DiRECT trial – which recently reported its five-year findings – has been central to making this possible. The expansion of this programme will offer even more people with type 2 diabetes a better chance of a healthier future.”

Adults living with obesity who have a diagnosis of diabetes or hypertension or both can also get help with managing their weight and improve their health via alternative NHS programmes.

The NHS Digital Weight Management Programme is a nationally available 12-week online behavioural and lifestyle programme accessed via a smartphone or computer with internet access. It can be accessed following a referral from Primary Care or Community Pharmacy.