In October The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Obesity undertook an inquiry seeking insights and recommendations that could enhance and support the Government’s new obesity strategy for adults and children. The report following this inquiry has recently launched, making recommendations and suggesting possible next steps for the government as they seek to develop weight management services. OEN UK fully supports the recommendations made in the report. Below is a summary of the report.

The inquiry sought to gather insights form a wide range of stakeholders including professional organisations and charities, psychologists, dieticians, bariatric surgeons, weight loss providers, public health campaigners, academic researchers and people living with obesity, through an online survey and an oral evidence session.

The inquiry particularly sought to identify:

  • Recommendations for the steps which could be taken to swiftly implement the Government’s obesity strategy published in July 2020
  • Any perceived gaps to be addressed in the future
  • The barriers to the expansion of weight management services 

The recently published policy paper presents the findings of the inquiry and recommends the Government to take the following actions:

  • The Government should continue to promote its ‘Better Health’ campaign and should build on this with a public information campaign about the range of support options, including treatment, available for people with obesity with a focus on overall health both in the short and long term.
  • The Government should establish a cross-Departmental delivery panel to oversee the implementation of obesity policy, including a ‘whole-systems’ approach, and to measure and report on the success of these policies on obesity outcomes.
  • The Government should commission research into the links between socioeconomic deprivation, ethnicity and obesity, consulting with experts and designing tailored strategies to reduce obesity in under-serviced communities based on its findings.
  • Integrated Care Systems should be mandated to develop an obesity prevention and treatment strategy for their population, strengthening existing services and sharing best practice across the network.
  • The Government should provide clear national guidance on obesity treatment pathways and commissioning responsibilities and set a minimum standard for treatment at a local level. Furthermore, key incentives should be developed and put in place for implementation of the local obesity strategy and execution of services to change overall population health.

The report looks in detail at implementing obesity policy and tracking outcomes, local service delivery and tackling inequalities, and expanding and improving the weight management pathway and services, reporting many important observations and specific recommendations.

Implementing policy and tracking outcomes

The report sets out the following priorities:

  • The Government’s plans for legislation should be brought forward without delay.
  • The Government should put in place a method of robust evaluation to measure success which measures the cumulative impact of interventions using markers of health as well as the body mass index.
  • The Government should maintain a close dialogue with people living with obesity and draw on the expertise of Public Health England through the implementation and evaluation process.

Delivering services locally and reducing inequalities

The report sets out the following priorities:

  • Tackling inequalities is key to addressing obesity and interventions should reflect this.
  • More research to understand the bi-directional link between inequality and obesity is required.
  • The Government should take steps to address issues in food supply which mean that those from poorer households find it extremely difficult to eat healthily.
  • National proposals should be implemented across the board to enable everyone to realise the health benefits where-ever they live.
  • Local authorities should be supported to provide additional local services based on population need.
  • A cross-Departmental delivery panel should be adopted to ensure that the ‘whole system’ is designed around healthy living and obesity management.

Expanding weight management services

The report sets out the following priorities:

  • People wishing to access support to reduce their weight should be able to do so and should be able to access a range of options.
  • Commissioning weight management services has the potential to save the NHS money in the longer term through reducing secondary conditions.
  • Long term funding is required to enable these savings.
  • The Government and NHS have precedent for increasing funding for obesity prevention and treatment.
  • A fundamental rethink of the way that weight management services are structured and incentivised needs to be undertaken. 
  • A more fluid, integrated and dynamic system should exist instead of the current tiered system. 
  • Incentivising GPs to refer patients who are living with obesity to weight loss support must be accompanied by ensuring local weight management services are available to refer to.
  • Patients and GPs should be able to select the most appropriate level of support together and refer directly to this service.
  • Conversations between healthcare professionals and patients should be supported by training and the Healthier Weight Framework.
  • Healthcare professionals should be supported to develop a knowledge of and promote the weight management options in their local area to support people who wish to access them.
  • Minimum standards for the delivery of services should be set, with accreditation to ensure services meet these standards.
  • Patients and people who use weight management services should be involved in the design of all service expansion.
  • Integrated Care Systems should be supported to design and deliver an integrated obesity model which delivers prevention and treatment.
  • As digital solutions develop, the NHS should be ready to pilot the most promising interventions aimed at the right patients and in the right communities.

You can read the report in full here.