Welcome to our new Executive Director

OEN has appointed Flora Nicholson to the position of Executive Director.

On her appointment, Flora said: “I have such deep admiration for the work of OEN, and feel very excited to be joining such an inspiring and talented group of people. With our ongoing passion and dedication, and working in partnership with other organisations in the UK, including members of the Obesity Health Alliance, I know there is no limit to what we can achieve. There are so many people who need our support, and we are in a unique position to be part of the public debate on obesity and influence change”.

Flora has an excellent track record of working in both the non- profit and private sectors. She started her career in the strategy team of Fortune 500 company Sodexo, and subsequently worked for the British Red Cross, delivering planning and monitoring support for 50 business units and leading the review of the organisational strategy. She joined Cancer Research UK in 2013, where she held a range of positions, including Strategy Manager and Senior Volunteering Manager. She delivered key projects for the cancer charity, including a new strategy to improve recruitment and retention for the organisation’s 40,000 volunteers. She also supported the creation of a strategic partnership between Cancer Research UK’s Communities Directorate (Events, Volunteer Fundraising, Retail), and the Policy and Information Directorate.

In the past year Flora has worked as a management consultant, most recently supporting the British Heart Foundation. She has also been a Trustee for Faiths Together in Lambeth, a South London charity promoting understanding and dialogue between different faith groups.

We are recruiting an Executive Director

Obesity Empowerment Network UK is in an exciting stage of development and we are looking for a passionate and dedicated Executive Director to join our team. The Executive Director’s role will be to steer the organisation in coordination with the Board of Trustees and the volunteer OEN Champions.

This is a ‘roll up your sleeves’ kind of job as the Executive Director will be the only member of staff at OEN – but not for long! With growth on the horizon we envisage the Executive Director taking on more management responsibility in the future.

For a full job description and further details please visit the Charity Job website.

To apply, please email your CV and cover letter to by Wednesday 5 December 2018.

Shortlisted candidates will be notified before Christmas and interviews will take place on Tuesday 15 January 2019. Please note that this role is remote with frequent travel to London for meetings.

Visiting the World Obesity Federation (WOF) Patient Summit

By Maggie Clinton, Obesity Empowerment Network UK Champion and Trustee

I am so honoured and excited at the prospect of being involved in events recognising the importance to developing a united worldwide approach to reducing the prejudice and stigma associated with obesity.

I submitted some personal reflections about two painful experiences I have had in relation to employment. These appear to have caught the attention of a number of newspapers and TV channels. As a result I gave a telephone interview to the Daily Express and had face-to-face interviews for BBC1 breakfast show and Sky news. I made sure that I mentioned Obesity Empowerment Network UK and I really hope that this part is not edited out. I want to get the message that OEN UK is a voice for people affected by overweight and obesity who want to improve.

Delegates have come from all around the world and it is fair to say that the majority have suffered from stigma and prejudice because of their size and weight. There are 20 patient representatives, speakers from patients groups and expert speakers and facilitators from World Obesity Federation.

The summit has a number of aims but in the main it is about the importance of the patient voice, advocacy and directly influencing policy-makers globally.

Tomorrow is a full day with a number of working groups looking at how to engage people living with obesity. I am particularly looking forward to the training session focusing upon engaging with policy-makers. There will be so much more to tell you in my next blog.

I am so proud of how far OEN UK has come from the first meeting back in October 2015. Many of the delegates know who we are and those that don’t, they want to know how we have come so far in such a short time. The answer of course is easy.

Maggie’s OEN’s recipe:

  • A solid foundation of professionals.
  • A large spoonful of champions.
  • A consistent flow of commitment.
  • A growing confidence to speak and be heard.
  • Peeling off the shame.
  • A large dollop of self-belief and empowerment.
  • Improved access and equity of services for all.

Nothing about us without us

For Further details if interested in OEN UK Champion role email:

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Obesity launches its report into the current landscape of obesity services

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Obesity launched a report on Tuesday 15th May 2018, Attlee Suite, Portcullis House. The report highlights that the NHS is failing people with obesity. A survey conducted by the Group found that four out of ten people with obesity found it difficult to access lifestyle and prevention services. 88% of respondents said they have been stigmatised, criticised or abused as a result of their obesity.

The Group has called for:

  • A national obesity strategy, bringing together different government departments, to ensure children are protected from junk food and adults with obesity who seek help from their GP have access to advice and treatment. Access to effective obesity services is currently a postcode lottery, with decisions on funding for obesity services being made by local commissioners. A whole-system approach with government backing, they said, would make action more likely.


  • The Government to lead or support efforts by the clinical community to investigate whether obesity should be classified as a disease in the UK, and what this would mean for the NHS and other services.


  • The Government to commission or support the development of a thorough, peer-reviewed cost benefit analysis of earlier intervention and treatment of patients with obesity.


You can find the full report here.


Questions to Parliament from Andrew Selous MP, Chair of the Obesity APPG

Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, how many clinical commissioning groups have commissioned tier 3 obesity services in each of the last five years.

Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what plans his Department has to evaluate the provision of weight management services for (a) children and young people and (b) adults in England.

A:  Clinical commissioning groups have a statutory responsibility to commission services which meet the needs of their local population including access to tier 4 obesity services.

The Department has not made an assessment of the cost effectiveness of tier 4 obesity services. It is for the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) to provide national clinical guidance and advice, based on best evidence of clinical and cost effectiveness, for use of interventions, technology and devices.

To help practitioners deliver the best possible care and give people the most effective treatments NICE has produced a suite of guidance on tackling obesity including “Obesity: identification, assessment and management of overweight and obesity in children, young people and adults”, which includes access to all tiers of obesity services. This guidance is available at:

The Department does not hold information on the number of tier 3 obesity services commissioned by clinical commissioning groups or local authorities. Public Health England has explored the evidence base for tier 3 weight management interventions with adults and children, which concludes that tier 3 obesity services can provide positive outcomes and support to individuals in managing severe and often complex forms of obesity. Outputs from this work are published in: “Exploring the evidence base for Tier 3 weight management interventions for adults: a systematic review” and “Exploring the evidence base for Tier 3 specialist weight management interventions for children aged 2-18 years in the UK: a rapid systematic review”. These documents are available at:

Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what assessment he has made of the effect of the advertising of products high in fat, sugar and salt on children’s health.

A: Public Health England’s 2015 report ‘Sugar reduction: The evidence for action’ is available at:

The report showed that all forms of advertising and marketing, including advertising on television, through social and other online media, increase the preference, choice, purchasing and consumption of high sugar foods and drinks by children. Consuming a diet high in sugar leads to weight gain and therefore contributes to childhood obesity.

How “obesity gene” triggers weight gain

An international team of researchers has discovered why people with a variation of the FTO gene that affects one in six of the population are 70 per cent more likely to become obese.

A new study led by scientists at UCL, the Medical Research Council (MRC) and King’s College London Institute of Psychiatry shows that people with the obesity-risk FTO variant have higher circulating levels of the ‘hunger hormone’, ghrelin, in their blood. This means they start to feel hungry again soon after eating a meal.

Real-time brain imaging reveals that the FTO gene variation also changes the way the brain responds to ghrelin, and to images of food, in the regions linked with the control of eating and reward.

Together these findings explain for the first time why people with the obesity-risk variant of the FTO gene eat more and prefer higher calorie foods compared with those with the low-risk version, even before they become overweight. The research, funded by the MRC and the Rosetrees Trust, is published today in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

– See more at: this UCL news article 

Individuals with two copies of the obesity-risk FTO variant are biologically programmed to eat more. Not only do these people have higher ghrelin levels and therefore feel hungrier, their brains respond differently to ghrelin and to pictures of food – it’s a double hit.

Dr Rachel Batterham, UCL metabolism & Experimental Therapeutics

NHS commissioning groups restricting weight loss surgery, surgeons warn – at a cost to patients and the public healthcare bill

A freedom of information (FOI) request made to all NHS commissioning groups (CCGs) shows that several have adopted policies which attempt to ration weight loss surgery to the super-obese, and ignore official advice on who should be eligible for surgery.

This has made it more difficult for overweight and obese people to get effective treatment to help them lose weight despite evidence that it is safe, effective and saves healthcare costs, according to the findings of a joint report from The British Obesity and Metabolic Surgery Society (BOMSS) and the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS).

Some CCGs either require patients to stop smoking or for patients to have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of over 50, despite NHS England and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) stating that surgery is cost effective and should be considered for patients with a BMI of over 35 with a co-morbidity (a further medical condition) such as Type II diabetes, or a BMI of 40 without a co-morbidity.

NHS England is currently delegating the commissioning of bariatric surgery to CCGs although most groups (80%) have yet to decide their own policies. Six CCGs admit they are not complying with the NHS England and NICE guidance. East Riding CCG says patients must have a BMI of at least 50 before they will be considered for surgery. Wolverhampton CCG imposes the same condition but will also consider some patients at a lower BMI who have diabetes. Solihull considers patients at BMI 50 with certain co-morbidities and will consider patients at BMI 45 or higher who have diabetes. Vale of York will look at patients at BMI or 50 or more but will consider patients at a lower BMI with certain co-morbidities. Mid-Essex is restricting treatment to non-smokers at the time of referral and NE Essex says smokers must be referred to a cessation service before they can be considered.

BOMSS and the RCS are warning this could harm patients and are demanding they revise their policies to bring them in line with the official guidelines.

The report showed that most CCGs have not yet adopted their own bariatric surgery policies – but will have to do so by next month under a phased government NHS reform.

Shaw Somers, Consultant surgeon and BOMSS President, said: “Our survey reveals worrying evidence that some CCGs are effectively taking the law into their own hands and defying official guidance on surgical interventions which have been proved to help people with a serious medical condition and also save healthcare costs.

“It typifies the second-class citizen manner in which bariatric patients seem to be viewed by some CCGs.

“We are calling on NHS England and NICE to make it clear to CCGs that they must comply with the guidelines on who is eligible for this safe and effective treatment, not try to ration it in a misguided attempt to save money in the short-term.”

Royal College of Surgeons President Clare Marx said: “Study after study shows bariatric surgery is highly effective, particularly in treating type 2 diabetes associated with obesity. It is therefore astounding that commissioning groups are effectively indicating that obese patients should get even more obese before they will consider surgery. This makes no sense and contradicts our very strong public health messages about the benefits of losing weight. Bariatric surgery is a significant medical innovation which should be made available to those patients who meet criteria which NICE have considered and published.”

BOMSS and the RCS make five recommendations to health bosses.

  • The six CCGs with arbitrary requirements for bariatric surgery should revise their policies in line with national clinical guidance.
  • NHS England should reiterate that access to NHS bariatric surgical treatment should be based on clinical need and uniform across the UK.
  • NICE and NHS England should continue to highlight the benefits of bariatric surgery.
  • NHS England should confirm that all CCGs will be responsible for commissioning bariatric surgery from 1 April to address the confusion over who is responsible.
  • NHS England should provide CCGs with clinical guidance for commissioning bariatric surgery, in advance of the transfer of responsibilities.

As well as calling on the six CCGs to fall in line with guidance the RCS and BOMSS have pledged to review the policies of all CCGS once new commissioning rules are in place.