NHS England is to open 15 specialist clinics to support children and young people with severe obesity.
The new pilot will see children and young adults, aged between two and 18, offered services to help them lose weight, including diet plans, mental health treatment and coaching, as part of care packages that can be developed with families.
Group sessions and specialist support and treatment from clinicians and professionals such as dieticians, psychologists, specialist nurses, social workers, youth workers and paediatricians, are also expected to be part of the care provided.
According to NHS England, obesity currently affects one in five children in the UK, with the condition and its complications estimated to cost the NHS around £6 billion per year.
As obesity is believed to increase the likelihood of a child developing serious health issues such as Type 2 diabetes, liver conditions and early heart disease, as well as difficulties with breathing, sleep and mental health, it’s hoped that early interventions and preventative actions could lead to better outcomes for patients and the NHS.
Amanda Pritchard, Chief Executive of the NHS in England, said: “The pandemic has shone a harsh light on obesity – with many vulnerable young people struggling with weight gain during the pandemic.
“Left unchecked, obesity can have other very serious consequences, ranging from diabetes to cancer. This early intervention scheme aims to prevent children and young people enduring a lifetime of ill-health.
“The NHS Long Term Plan committed to take more action to help children and young people with their physical and mental health and these new services are a landmark moment in efforts to help them lead longer, healthier and happier lives.”
Professor Julian Hamilton-Shield, Professor of Diabetes and Metabolic Endocrinology at Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, commented: “Using a team of experts from many disciplines, including specialist dieticians, social support workers, and mental health professionals, we can pinpoint the exact causes of weight gain and create tailored treatment plans for each child to help accelerate weight loss and address the complications caused.
“The creation of these 15 new clinics across the country demonstrate the NHS’s commitment to help tackle obesity and provide more local access to specialist weight management support for children in England.”