Professor Jonathan Valabhji, national clinical director for obesity and diabetes at NHS England, reported that 2,000 patients had been referred onto the flagship NHS prevention scheme as of August this year.
NHS England expects 10,000-20,000 to enrol onto the scheme by the end of 2016/17 as it is rolled out across more areas.
Speaking at the RCGP annual conference 2016, Professor Valabhji warned that diabetes is affecting a ‘larger and larger proportion of our population'.
He told conference that ‘swathes of people’ have been identified with impaired glucose tolerance following of the NHS Health Check, and this had created ‘an ethical case to provide something for those individuals’ before they develop diabetes.
GPs operating across one of the 10 test site areas began referring these patients on to the Diabetes Prevention Programme in July.
The programme offers patients tailored help on healthy eating and exercise to help them lose weight. By 2020, 100,000 places will be available on the programme each year.
Dr Richard Mendelsohn, clinical lead of commissioning at Birmingham Central CCG, reported that the scheme had run well in his area.
Out of 1,872 referrals, around half (903 patients) had opted to attend the programme, with a retention rate of over 90%.
NHS England is also interested in developing a ‘direct to consumer’ approach, Professor Valabhji revealed, which will bypass GPs and help get more hard-to-reach patients onto the programme.
‘There’s a proportion of the population that are high risk but don't have a relationship with general practice,’ he said. ‘In particular young Asian males – they are a high risk group but they won’t land in the health system and are too young for a health check.
‘We need to find ways to get them from age 25, and hopefully this will address inequalities.’