NHS to open new specialist clinics for obese children and young people

Thousands more children and young people who are severely obese will receive intensive support from the NHS, with 10 new specialist clinics set to open across England.

The new services will launch this year, bringing the total to 30 clinics that are able to provide expert help to children and their families which can prevent long term conditions including Type 2 diabetes.

Around 3,000 obese children and young people aged between two and 18, will receive help to lose weight, treatment for complications as well as tailored care packages developed with their family, which could include diet plans, mental health care and coaching.

The new initiative is set to be announced at the annual NHS Confed Expo conference in Manchester tomorrow with NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard expected to say that “doing nothing is not an option” and that earlier intervention can prevent long term health problems such as heart attacks and strokes.

Backed by £18 million over the next two years, the boosted rollout doubles the ambitions set out in the NHS Long Term Plan to introduce 15 new clinics in England.

The expansion comes alongside figures showing that hospital admissions of obese youngsters under 17 has nearly tripled in a decade – going from 3,370 in 2011/12 to 9,431 in 2021/22.

NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard will say: “Obesity can lead to a string of serious illnesses such as cancer and diabetes – bringing a terrible human cost, and also a real pressure on the NHS.

“Doing nothing now is not an option and so these new clinics, will bring together a range of experts in one place providing intensive – but sensitive – physical and mental support for thousands of young people and their families.”

Patients being treated at the new clinics will get access to specialist NHS doctors, nurses, psychologists, social workers and dietitians, who will assess their complications, provide tailored help with diet and lifestyle changes, and deliver mental health support and coaching.

In addition to providing treatment, the clinics will also work at identifying the factors which cause obesity in children and young people by considering their mental wellbeing alongside their physical health.

Professor Simon Kenny, NHS England’s National Clinical Director for Children and Young People, said: “Living with excess weight can cause problems affecting every organ system resulting in long term complications such as early death, type 2 diabetes, stroke, early joint replacements and mental health issues.“These clinics’ holistic approach to treating obesity and its causes, will help children and young people in a way that respects them; and works with the specific factors of their individual situation.

“We are committed to helping as many children and young people as possible with their physical and mental health and these additional clinics are an important step in helping vulnerable children and young people live healthier and happier lives”.

Research shows that the number of children living with severe obesity doubles from the start of primary school to the end of primary school – with latest data showing that one fifth of children aged 10-11 years are obese in England.

One young person, who has benefited from support offered by an NHS CEW clinic is Nicky from Merseyside. Patient received support from the clinics when they were 16 years old. They had always struggled with their weight and felt self-conscious, fed up and restricted with what they could do. They wanted to lose weight and experience more freedom whilst growing up.

They accessed the service with encouragement from their family. They found every person they met in clinic friendly and non-judgemental making them feel immediately at ease.

The clinics gave them practical advice with realistic goals. As part of the multi-disciplinary approach, the patient started seeing a clinical psychologist which had a particularly profound impact on them.

Nicky, said: “I’ve had such a positive experience with the CEW clinic. They have helped me with both my mental and physical health and were really non-judgemental. I feel like this approach, prioritising mental health just as much as physical health is really important. I’m 18 now and I’m in a really good place with my weight loss journey. I’m in college and looking forward to the future.”

The NHS Long Term Plan has an ambition of treating more children for severe complications related to their obesity and avoiding the need for more invasive treatment.

Childhood and young people obesity can be caused by many factors, such as a treatment for an existing medical condition, genetics, poverty and lifestyle.

Health Minister Neil O’Brien said: “We want to give children and young people the best start in life, and we know that obesity is linked to a whole host of health problems – including cancer and cardiovascular disease.

“We’re determined to halve childhood obesity by 2030, and these clinics are a great step forward to get more youngsters the support they need to manage the complications linked to obesity and achieve a healthier weight.

“It builds on action to promote healthier lifestyles, including our £600 million investment over the next two years to promote school sport, and introducing the sugar tax, calorie labelling and restrictions on where unhealthy food is placed in supermarkets to reduce the use of ‘pester power’ by shops.”

The criteria for a child or young person to be referred to NHS Complications from Excess Weight clinic is that they have a body mass index (BMI) above the 99.6 percentile and a complication of excess weight or BMI above the 3.33 Standard Deviation Standard.