NHS expands ‘soup and shake’ diets to thousands more patients with type 2 diabetes across England

Over 10,000 more people living with type 2 diabetes and excess weight or obesity in England are to be offered NHS soup and shake diets this year to help them lose weight and significantly improve their health.

Under a new expansion plan, the radical NHS Type 2 Diabetes Path to Remission Programme is being rolled out nationally to benefit patients across the whole of England, doubling its capacity this year.

The programme will now be available in 42 local health areas – up from 21 last year – meaning that eligible patients will be able to access it in every part of the country.

The 12-month innovative programme helps kickstart weight loss by providing participants with low calorie, nutritionally complete, total diet replacement products – such as soups, shakes and bars – consisting of 800 to 900 calories a day, for the first 12 weeks.

Participants are then supported by clinicians and coaches to reintroduce healthy, nutritious food into their diet to maintain weight loss; and their progress monitored. During the programme participants are able to choose how they are supported through one-to-one in-person sessions or digitally online.

Amanda Pritchard, NHS chief executive, said: “The expansion of this transformative programme is another example of the NHS leading the way internationally, by providing evidence-based treatments and support to help give people with type 2 diabetes more control over their health.

“Developing type 2 diabetes can have a devastating impact for so many people and their families, and this NHS programme can be truly life-changing in helping reverse the effects of the condition, reducing their risks of significant health complications and supporting them to stay well for the long-term.

“I’m delighted that thousands of people have already accessed this support on the NHS to improve their health and that many thousands more are now set to benefit this year as we roll it out to every area of England.”

Over 20,000 people have already been offered the programme since it was first piloted by NHS England in 2020 as part of its Long Term Plan.

Analysis shows that the programme is effective and can work successfully to improve people’s diabetes control and support weight loss, with participants typically losing 7.2kg (over one stone) on average after one month, and an average of 13kg (over two stone) in three months.

This is similar to the outcomes seen in clinical trials, showing early promise that the programme will lead to remission of type 2 diabetes in up to half of those who complete it.

Health chiefs are investing £13 million this year to support the programme’s expansion, and since the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, local NHS teams have been given £36 million by NHS England to help restore their diabetes services to pre-pandemic levels.

Type 2 diabetes is a leading cause of preventable sight loss in people of working age and is a major contributor to kidney failure, lower limb amputation, heart attack, stroke and some cancers.

The NHS in England currently spends around £10 billion a year – around 10% of its entire budget – on identifying and treating diabetes. It also typically spends £6.5 billion a year on treating obesity.

Patients can benefit from the programme if they have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in the last six years, with referrals made by local GPs. The programme is offered to people who meet a set of criteria, which include those who:

  • Are aged 18 – 65 years,
  • have a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes within the last six years, and
  • have a BMI over 27 kg/m2 (where individuals are from White ethnic groups) or over 25 kg/m2 (where individuals are from Black, Asian and other ethnic groups)

One person who benefited from joining the NHS Type 2 Diabetes Path to Remission Programme is 33 year-old James Thompson from Birmingham.

James said: “In 2021, a nurse practitioner from my GP surgery referred me to the programme as I was not tolerating my medications well. I weighed 177kg (27 stone 8 lbs) and thought I could never lose weight.

“I found the first few months the most challenging as I had to get used to this new way of eating. Once I got into a routine and losing weight, my mood improved. When it was time to reintroduce regular food back into my diet, I was eating more vegetables, salads and other high-fibre foods. I started to feel more energetic and bought a bike to cycle to and from work. I was managing to do more steps every day, completing approximately 30,000 steps when I could.

“Now I have lost 95kg (54% of my body weight) since starting the programme and I now weigh 82kg. With a Hb1Ac (average blood glucose) of 29, my diabetes is in remission and my GP has advised me that I don’t need any diabetes treatment which is fantastic.

“I am happier, more confident in myself and my sleep quality has improved a lot. Working has become much easier and still love riding my bike – I’m now even planning long-distance bike rides. I can also go to theme parks and enjoy the rides – something I was previously told I could not do because of my weight.”

NHS National Clinical Director for Diabetes and Obesity, Dr Clare Hambling said: “The rollout of this innovative programme across the NHS in England provides a holistic and compassionate way to help people living with type 2 diabetes and overweight or obesity.

“Weight loss can lead to significant health benefits, including for some, remission of type 2 diabetes, and it’s important the NHS offers a wide range of services that are easy to access and tailored to those looking to manage their condition.

“Our NHS Type 2 Diabetes Path to Remission Programme, sits alongside the success of our world-leading Healthier You NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme – which independent evaluation has shown to successfully reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by more than a third for people who complete the programme.”

The NHS Long Term Plan set out a range of actions that the NHS is taking to reduce variation in access to services and patient outcomes, improve quality of treatment and outcomes for people living with type 1 or type 2 diabetes.

The NHS Type 2 Diabetes Path to Remission Programme is a joint initiative between NHS England and Diabetes UK. It is based on two large studies which showed that, as a result of going on a specially designed programme, people living with type 2 diabetes who were overweight could improve their diabetes control, reduce diabetes-related medication and, in some cases, put their type 2 diabetes into remission.

Colette Marshall, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK said: “Diabetes UK is proud to have funded over a decade of research that has forged new frontiers for people with type 2 diabetes and put remission on the map. We’re delighted that the NHS England Type 2 Diabetes Path to Remission Programme has already helped thousands of people on their weight loss and remission journey, and this expansion means that many more people with type 2 diabetes will benefit.

“Type 2 diabetes is caused by a range of factors from genetics to where the body stores fat, with our food environment also playing a significant role. Remission from type 2 diabetes can transform health and wellbeing and potentially reduce the risk of serious long term complication of diabetes. But we know that going into remission can be challenging and staying there even more so. That’s why we’ve just launched our new remission information and support resources and are continuing to fund research to understand how to help more people go into remission and stay there for longer.”

There is no cure for type 2 diabetes, but some people can put their diabetes into remission.

Public Health Minister Andrea Leadsom said: “I want us all to be able to lead longer, healthier lives, so I am thrilled that thousands more diabetes patients will soon benefit from this successful programme.

“Alongside effective treatments like this, we’re taking strong action to prevent obesity and help people lead healthier lifestyles – such as nearly halving the sugar in soft drinks through a landmark industry levy, introducing mandatory calorie labelling on menus, and investing in technologies like the ‘Couch to 5k’ app.”

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.