GPs should work side-by-side with pharmacists to help tackle the growing obesity epidemic, according to the National Obesity Forum (NOF).
NOF clinical director Dr David Haslam, who is also a GP in Hertfordshire, said that the role of pharmacists in weight management was currently 'under-valued'.
'Pharmacist have access to a lot of patients,' he said. 'As long as they have the facilities and can carry out weight management in a confidential manner then they could play a role.'
Rather than see the move as a threat, many GPs would welcome the help as they are reluctant to get involved in obesity management, said Dr Haslam.
'GPs still have a role to play in managing the risks of obesity.'
Dr Haslams comment's come after the results of a European survey of 300 pharmacists, 50 of who work in the UK, revealed that 94 per cent believe they should be offering advice on weight loss medication and healthy eating.
The survey also found that 92 per cent of pharmacists think they should be offering advice on behavioural changes to support weight loss.
Terry Maguire, a community pharmacist and a fellow of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, was involved in an obesity management scheme run by UniChem in Coventry.
'We have successfully piloted an obesity management programme in 14 pharmacies across Coventry over the past 12 months, with a view to a national roll-out,' he said. 'We worked with the GPs in the area, who referred their patients on to the pharmacists for advice.'
The scheme was split into tiers, with all pharmacists providing advice on healthy eating and exercise.
But only pharmacists with further training can interview patients to set up targets for weight loss, and measure BMI, BP and cholesterol.
Dr Ian Campbell, medical director of the charity Weight Concern and a GP in Nottingham, warned that patients would need to be able to visit the same pharmacist and be given long-term support in order to lose weight.
In the Pharmacy White Paper, published in April, the DoH pushed for pharmacists to take on additional roles, including offering lifestyle advice.
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