In 2014, the National Institute of Health and Medical Care (Nice) released an updated guide stating that people with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 and over can benefit from Referral to a therapist to weight loss programs.
He added that “where there are opportunities”, access should not be restricted to those who are overweight (with a BMI of 25 or more or below in black and ethnic minorities).
It also says there should be no top BMI or an upper age limit for referrals to programs that may include programs run by the NHS or Weight Watchers.
A study presented at the European Obesity Congress in Maastricht found that only 3% of overweight or obese adults in primary care in England were referred to weight management programs by their doctors.
Dr Karen Culman and colleagues at the University of Bristol used anonymous electronic electronic health records to determine how many overweight or obese adults were referred for weight control programs.
Approximately 31% (1,811,587) of the adults whose records were studied were overweight or obese between January 2007 – when the Guide to Weight Control Programs was first published – until June 2020.
This is half of the 64% of the figure reported in a health survey in England, which indicates that weight problems are insufficiently recorded in therapists’ operations.
Men were 31% less likely to get a referral than women, and people aged 18-24 were 54% less likely than people aged 45-54.
According to the study, black people were 23% more likely to be referred than whites.
The study found that adults who were diagnosed with obesity or overweight in recent years were more likely to be treated.
The probability of referral was 2.7 times higher for those diagnosed in 2019-20, compared to a diagnosis in 2007.
Higher BMI also meant that people were referred more often. Those with a BMI over 40 were more than six times more likely to be targeted than those in the 25-30.
Adults living in the poorest areas were 20% more likely to be targeted than those living in the poorest areas, which may reflect higher levels of obesity in those areas, the study suggests.
The chances of being sent were highest in the West Midlands, where people were sent more than twice as often as in the Northwest.
Dr Coleman said: “Weight management programs are known to be effective, and national guidelines state that anyone who is overweight or obese is eligible to be referred to them.”
The new study has not been reviewed or published in a medical journal.
The NHS of England has said that the new NHS weight management program, introduced last June, has brought thousands of appeals.
Professor Jonathan Wallabies, National Clinical Director for Diabetes and Obesity, said: “Since July 2021, under the NHS Digital Weight Management program, therapists have referred more than 100,000 people, marking a significant milestone for the 12-week behavioral scheme.
“Everyone is different and therefore requires individual treatment.
“The program includes diet and lifestyle plans, physical activity initiatives, in-app support and educational resources such as blogs and recipes, all of which will be tailored to the individual, resulting in additional personal support.”