Digital weight management

Obesity is widely acknowledged as a major public health issue, not just in the UK but globally.  Obesity is a serious health concern which increases the risk of many other health conditions, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, joint problems, mental health problems and some cancers. There is also evidence to suggest that people living with obesity are at higher risk of the more severe outcomes associated with COVID-19.  Furthermore, evidence suggests that people living with obesity are more likely to be admitted to hospital and are at greater risk of COVID-19 complications.

The 2019 ‘Global Burden of Disease’ study shows obesity as one of the biggest risk factors driving death and disability in England, as well as high blood pressure, alcohol use and smoking.

Pre pandemic from April 2019 to the end of December 2020, data shows there were:

  • 10,780 hospital admissions directly attributable to obesity.  A decrease of 3% on 2018/19, when there were 11,117 admissions.
  • Just over 1 million hospital admissions where obesity was a factor, an increase of 17% on 2018/19 figures when there were 876,000.
  • 294,000 items prescribed for the treatment of obesity, a slight decrease from the previous year, but still high.
  • Costs associated with hospitalisation for obesity related conditions of more than £6.1bn.

Many different statutory organisations have a role in helping to prevent and reduce obesity

In July 2021, the NHS Digital Weight Management Programme was successfully rolled out nationally. Accessible to people through a referral from General Practice or Community Pharmacy, the service provides targeted support for adults living with obesity, who also have a diagnosis of diabetes, high blood pressure or both, to manage their weight and improve their health. The Programme gives individual support enabling people living with obesity to manage their weight, improve the quality of their life and improve longer term health outcomes.

Early evidence from the NHS Digital Weight Management Programme shows services delivered digitally are more likely to be accessed by younger (working age) people and being online means it’s widely accessible across England.

Emerging data shows the programme’s targeted and tailored approach through primary care, is proving to be effective as:

  • A greater proportion of people from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds are being referred to the programme via the GP or community pharmacy compared to the percentage of people from people from black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds communities in the general population.
  • 1 in 4 referrals are from people in the most deprived socioeconomic quintile and nearly half of the participants referred come from the two most deprived socioeconomic groups.
  • Early outcomes data suggests we are seeing comparable weight loss and equitable engagement from participants across all socioeconomic and ethnic groups.

All NHS staff are able to directly access the Digital Weight Management Programme, with 15,000 staff members having signed up since July 2021 to receive the targeted support helping them improve their health and wellbeing.


The NHS Digital Weight Management Programme supports adults living with obesity who have a diagnosis of diabetes, hypertension or both to manage their weight and improve their health. This animated video provides details on who is eligible for the programme and how to access it.

This animated video explains what people, who have enrolled on to the NHS Digital Weight Management Programme, can expect from the 12 week programme and how they can make the most of their time on it.

Case studies

Digital weight management programme for NHS staff

Over 15,000 NHS staff have signed up to the NHS Digital Weight Management Programme since it started in July 2021. This programme is part of a wider commitment in the NHS Long Term Plan, to help people living with obesity who want to improve their health. Read how the online programme can support you on your journey to a healthier lifestyle..


woman, smiling and painting a picture.

Case study – Living her best life

A few years ago, Lauren McAteer started experiencing lower backache and pain in her hips. The pain gradually became worse and she lost motivation to keep up a healthy lifestyle. She began comfort eating and Lauren was no longer managing her weight.

Read how Lauren decided to take control and started her journey to being the best version of herself.