DoH obesity plan 'won't make a single patient thinner'

A DoH plan to tackle rising obesity in England 'won't make a single patient thinner', according to a leading GP.

National Obesity Forum chairman and Hertfordshire GP Dr David Haslam lambasted the government’s ‘call to action’ as ‘meaningless’ to primary care.

Dr Haslam said it focuses too heavily on prevention and will do nothing to help people who are already obese. Over 60 per cent of adults are currently overweight or obese and obese patients will cost the NHS around £6.4 billion by 2015.

Although prevention is important, the policy gives no evidence-based proposals for how to improve weight management in primary care, Dr Haslam told GP.

‘I almost completely object to it,' he said. 'It will make no difference in the real world to what we do in primary care. This "call to action" won’t make a single one of my patients thinner.'

He added that it comes as obesity services are ‘seeing budgets cut left, right and centre'.

The government’s plans state that GPs ‘will have a role in terms of identification, providing brief advice, medical management and onward referral’. But there are few other references to primary care.

The report also suggests the NHS Commissioning Board may fund and commission bariatric surgery in future.

Dr Haslam, an advocate of the procedures, warned this could eliminate case-by-case decisions on obesity surgery. Such decisions are important to ensure patients with the greatest need receive treatment.

A DoH spokesman said: 'Our approach treats prevention and treatment as equally important. We have to halt and then reverse the tide of obesity in this country.

'Government can't solve the problem on its own but we can encourage and support a wide range of partners to play their part. The "Call to Action" sets out how we will do this, and the new national ambitions provide a focus for our collective efforts.'

The report, entitled, ‘Healthy Lives, Healthy People: A call to action on obesity in England’, aims to inform people about diet and exercise, by using ‘nudge’ tactics’, rather than regulation of the food and drink industry.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley wants England to cut 5 billion calories from its diet, and for local authorities, businesses and non-government organisations to play a greater role in reducing obesity. But obesity charities described the policy, launched earlier this month, as ‘utterly inadequate’ for its lack of industry regulation.

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