Obese patients must not be blamed for being overweight and should be treated with respect by their doctors, according to new draft guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).
Obesity is a serious problem that affects one in four adults in England and costs the NHS an estimated £5.1 billion each year. It is a major risk factor for both type 2 diabetes and heart disease and is also linked to some types of cancer.
To tackle the national obesity epidemic, NICE recommends that GPs refer obese patients to “lifestyle weight management” programmes that not offer to help people change their eating and exercise habits for the long term.
“This draft guidance isn’t about quick fixes, it is about ensuring lifestyle weight management services support people in the long term,” said Prof Mike Kelly, Director of the Centre for Public Health at NICE.
“Programmes that address diet, activity and behaviour change can help people who are obese lose weight but they are only cost-effective if the weight is kept off.”
To “minimise harm”, the guidance also recommends that doctors and other health professionals running such programmes treat patients with respect and ensure they are not blamed for being overweight, but also make it clear to them “how much motivation and commitment” is needed to achieve weight loss and maintain a healthy weight.
Furthermore, Prof Kelly said doctors should be careful when addressing patients due to the “serious consequences” obesity can have on a person’s health, not only physically but also mentally “as a result of stigma and bullying or discrimination”.
The NICE draft guidance on services to help people manage their weight is now out for consultation.

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