NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens says British taxpayers are spending more on obesity-related complications than on the police or fire service.
Stevens told MPs on the Commons Health Select Committee that preventing problems from people being overweight could save the NHS billions of pounds.
Currently, the NHS spends £16 billion a year on type 2 diabetes and obesity – a significant association exists between the two conditions, while the fire and police services cost the British tax payer £13.6 billion each year.
Stevens highlighted that more needs to be done to tackle “modifiable health risk factors” that can increase obesity, such as alcohol consumptio, over-reliance on processed food and low physical activity, which takes up 40 per cent of the NHS’s workload.
Britain has the second highest levels of obesity in Europen, which can also be caused by genetic, behavioural and hormonal influences.
He highlighted that reducing the amount of salt in people’s diets has saved the NHS roughly £1.5 billion since 2001, and is optimistic that the forthcoming sugar tax will yield similar benefits.
“A good place to start would be childhood obesity, and obviously the sugar tax in the budget is a key building block in that,” said Stevens.
“Action to take added sugar out of food and drinks, as we have successfully done with salt over the last 15 years, that will show up as reduced rates of type 2 diabetes, reduced rates of diabetic blindness, amputations.”
The government is due to publish its strategy for tackling childhood obesity in England this summer, and Stevens has called for it to be released “soon” after a series of delays.
A report was released on Tuesday, commissioned by The Richmond Group of charities, which found 250,000 people could die over the next nine years due to preventable conditions, caused by lifestyle choices such as smoking and physical activity.

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