Portsmouth GPs want to refer patients to weight-loss support groups to tackle obesity crisis

  • Around £2.3m has been spent in two-and-a-half years on weight-loss surgery in Portsmouth area
  • It’s thought more than 10 per cent of the adult population in the city is obese
  • GPs call for weight-loss referral system similar to Hampshire County Council
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DOCTORS are hoping to bring in a scheme that would see them ‘prescribe’ weight-loss classes to overweight people in a bid to tackle obesity.

Around £2.3m has been spent on providing bariatric surgery – such as having a gastric band – in the Portsmouth area since April 2013.

An overweight man eats fast food

An overweight man eats fast food

In Hampshire, GPs can refer patients to a 12-week programme with a weight-loss group like Slimming World, which is funded by the county council’s public health team.

An eligible patient is given vouchers that would fund a 12-week course aimed at helping them change their lifestyle to lose weight.

But there is no such scheme in place in Portsmouth – instead Portsmouth City Council’s public health team launched a Wellbeing Service last month, to which people can be referred by their GPs to get advice on a range of health issues such as weight loss.

Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt said the slimming group scheme should be brought to the city.

Patients would do well if the scheme was brought into the city and I have seen certainly a few patients that would definitely benefit from it.

Dr Howard Smith

She said: ‘There needs to be more options to help people lose weight.

‘The cost of a 12-week programme to change someone’s lifestyle is nothing compared to someone developing diabetes and the complications that come from that.

‘It makes absolute sense to push on preventative methods and I would support putting more money into that.’

Doctors think a weight-loss support group referral scheme would be more effective than the Wellbeing Service, but the council says it won’t pay for both.

Dr Howard Smith is a GP at The Eastney Practice in Eastney.

He said: ‘This is something worth looking at and having as we have quite a problem with obesity in the city.

‘My dad lives in Hampshire and has been given a referral to a group and he has lost three stone.

‘I have lost two stone with a slimming group and they certainly give support on how to make lifestyle changes.

‘Patients would do well if the scheme was brought in and I have seen a few patients who would benefit from it.’

Dr Jon Price is a GP at The Osborne Practice in Southsea, and would also welcome having a referral system.

He said: ‘This sort of scheme is extremely desirable.

‘Helping someone with their weight now would stop long-term problems such as diabetes or having bariatric surgery.

‘At the moment it seems we need money for both, and there’s not a lot of cash around.’

Dr Kawai Mo, GP at Kingston Crescent practice, said: ‘I would like GPs to be able to refer patients with weight management problems to slimming groups.

‘They are helping the majority of people.’

In Portsmouth around 10 per cent of the adult population is classed as obese – although the public health team said this is likely to be much higher as not all people’s weights are recorded.

NHS England Wessex pays for specialist surgery like fitting gastric bands to people in south-east Hampshire.

Wessex said in 2013/14, 99 bariatric operations took place.

This increased to 119 in 2014/15, and there have been 60 so far this year, from April.

It has proven to be a life-changer for Lea Wood, 41, of Ha’Penny Dell, in Purbrook.

She was referred to Slimming World by her GP in Forest End Surgery, Waterlooville, and went on to lose 4st 2lbs and is now a consultant for the group.

She said: ‘Without the GP-referral scheme I would not have gone to a weight-loss group.’

How the referrals for groups would take place

HAMPSHIRE County Council says it has three tiers of weight-management support.

The first is information on eating a balanced diet, the second is weight management and the third is surgery.

Criteria for tier two – referrals to weight-loss support groups – is that the person is aged 16 years or above, with a body mass index of more than 30, and has one or more of the following:

* Cardiovascular disease or is at high risk of it

* Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes

* Metabolic syndrome

* Surgery or medical intervention dependent upon weight-loss

* Mental health issues

* Is a parent of a child up to two years old

* BMI greater than 28 in the south Asian population with one or more of the above co-morbidities

* BMI greater than 35 without co-morbidities

On average 30 people a month are referred to slimming groups around the county. GP practices provide the number and details of groups, such as Slimming World or Weight Watchers, to give individuals choice and a voucher is used.

Gosport has the highest proportion of adults in the county council area – which excludes Portsmouth and Southampton – at an unhealthy weight at 72.9 per cent, then Havant at 67.8 per cent and Fareham at 64.8 per cent.

Councillor Patricia Stallard, who is in charge of health and public health, said: ‘Supporting people to lose weight is not only good for them as individuals but cost saving to all public services.’