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Specialist clinics to open for children with severe obesity

NHS building

By Jess Hacker
16 November 2021

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NHS England will introduce 15 specialist clinics to offer intensive support to children and young people with severe obesity, it has announced, as new data from NHS Digital revealed obesity rates among young children have seen their highest annual rise since 2006.

Announced yesterday (15 November), the new clinics will offer children ‘tailored’ care packages which may include diet plans, mental health treatment and coaching.

It added that the clinics will provide group sessions supported by a full clinical team, including dietitians, psychologists, paediatricians and social workers.

The new clinics deliver on commitments laid out in the NHS Long Term Plan to treat children for severe complications related to their obesity, thereby avoiding the need for more invasive treatment.

Kent and Medway CCG will host an outreach clinic.

Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of the NHS in England said that the pandemic has ‘shone a harsh light on obesity’, with many vulnerable young people struggling with weight gain.

‘Left unchecked, obesity can have other very serious consequences, ranging from diabetes to cancer,’ she said.

‘This early intervention scheme aims to prevent children and young people enduring a lifetime of ill-health.’

It comes as NHS Digital data revealed obesity prevalence among four and five-year-olds in reception classes rose from 9.9% in 2019-20 to 14.4% in 2020-21, marking the highest annual rise since the National Child Measurement Programme launched in 2006.

The new data, published today (16 November), also indicated that among children aged 10 and 11, obesity prevalence jumped by 4.5 percentage points to 25.5% in the last year.

Similarly, the proportion of children who were a healthy weight dropped during the same time frame from 76.1% to 71.3% for children in reception classes, and to 57.8% from 63.4% for 10-11-year-olds.

Meanwhile, obesity prevalence for reception children in the most deprived area was more than double (20.3%) that of children in the least deprived areas (7.8%).

Dame Parveen Kumar, BMA board of science chair Professor, said the figures ‘expose the extremely shameful health inequalities that exist within society and the Government’s failure to act’.

She added that ‘while today’s announcement of pilot clinics to support severely obese children across the country is welcome, we need much more comprehensive and widescale intervention’.

This should include greater preventative measures underpinned by increased public health funding across the country, she suggested.

Earlier this year, the Government announced a £70m investment to tackle obesity, via a new GP enhanced service and 700,000 extra adults accessing weight management services.

In July, NHS Digital then launched its £20m-backed Weight Management Programme, which allows practice teams to refer patients with diabetes, high blood pressure or both to free online support.

The programme was launched in tandem with £4.3m ringfenced fending for select local authorities to pilot interventions to improve children’s access to weight management services.

The 15 new centres will be opened in:

  • Kent and Medway CCG (outreach clinic)
  • Derriford Hospital
  • Southampton University Hospitals
  • East London (Kings College London Hospital and Bart’s Health NHS Trust)
  • West London (covered by Great Ormand Street Hospital, University Hospital London and Tavistock Hospital)
  • Addenbrooke’s Hospital
  • Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals
  • Birmingham Women and Children’s
  • Nottingham Children’s Hospital / Leicester Royal Infirmary
  • Sheffield Children’s Hospital
  • Alder Hey Children’s Hospital
  • Manchester Children’s Hospital
  • Royal Preston
  • Leeds Teaching Hospital
  • South Tees Hospital

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