The NHS has announced plans to open 10 new specialist clinics across England to tackle the most severe cases of childhood obesity.
Backed by £18 million over the next two years, the new services will launch this year and bring the total to 30 clinics, double the ambition set out in the NHS Long Term Plan to introduce 15 new clinics in England.
The clinics will have the capacity to support around 3,000 obese children and young people aged between two and 18. Patients get access to specialist NHS doctors, nurses, psychologists, social workers and dietitians, who provide support to lose weight, treatment for complications as well as tailored care packages developed with their family, which could include diet plans, mental health care and coaching.
Currently, 21 clinics are open and care is being delivered by multidisciplinary teams linked to a specialist children’s hospital.
The expansion has been announced alongside figures that hospital admissions of obese youngsters under 17 have nearly tripled in a decade – from 3,370 in 2011/12 to 9,431 in 2021/22.
The expanded rollout is set to be announced at the annual NHS Confed Expo conference in Manchester today with NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard expected to say that ‘doing nothing now is not an option’.
The clinics will also work to identify the factors which cause obesity in children and young people, considering mental wellbeing alongside physical health.
Professor Simon Kenny, NHS England’s national clinical director for children and young people, said: ‘These clinics’ holistic approach to treating obesity and its causes, will help children and young people in a way that respects them; and works with the specific factors of their individual situation.’
The number of children living with obesity doubles from the start to the end of primary school – with one fifth of children aged 10-11 years now obese in England.
Health minister Neil O’Brien said: ‘We’re determined to halve childhood obesity by 2030, and these clinics are a great step forward to get more youngsters the support they need to manage the complications linked to obesity and achieve a healthier weight.’
The criteria for a child or young person to be referred to NHS Complications from Excess Weight clinic is a body mass index (BMI) above the 99.6 percentile and a complication of excess weight or BMI above the 3.33 Standard Deviation Standard.
Data published last year showed that the proportion of obese four and five-year-olds was more than double in the most deprived areas than the least deprived.
And this year, separate figures have shown that the number of people with diabetes in the UK has escalated to more than five million for the first time with the Government looking at how GPs could safely prescribe obesity drugs to adults as part of plans to reduce pressure on the NHS and cut waiting lists.