GP pilot offers obese patients free weight-loss sessions

Northern Ireland GPs can now refer obese patients to free weight-loss sessions in a pilot scheme launched by the country's health board.

Weight loss: NI scheme allows GPs to refer to commercial schemes

Patients with a BMI over 30 will be offered free access to commercial weight-loss programmes in a bid to reduce health risks linked to obesity.

Studies have shown that commercial weight-loss schemes are cheaper and more effective than those run by the NHS.

Qualifying patients will receive vouchers for 12 sessions with a commercial weight loss programme provider. These give patients advice and support about physical activity and diet.

Patients must be aged over 18, not pregnant, and must not have attended a weight-loss clinic in the past three months. GPs can refer patients who lose 2.5% of their weight to a second course of 12 sessions.

The pilot is funded by Northern Ireland's Health and Social Care Board and the Public Health Agency (PHA).

Newry GP Dr Sean Digney welcomed the initiative: 'It is never too late to change habits and establish a healthy lifestyle. Stopping smoking, taking more exercise, moderate alcohol intake, losing weight and adopting a low fat/low salt diet will prevent many illnesses.'

Dr Joanne McClean, a public health consultant at the PHA, said: 'GPs and other members of the primary care team can play an important role in helping people who are motivated to make lifestyle changes to lose weight through a managed programme.'

Around 35% of adults in Northern Ireland are overweight and 24% are obese.

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