Expand NHS health checks in pharmacies to tackle obesity, report says

Health & NHS

Expand NHS health checks in pharmacies to tackle obesity, report says

A report that examines how obesity care in England can be improved and made accessible for more people has set out a raft of proposals, including getting a greater number of pharmacies to provide NHS health checks.

Five recommendations were made in the report, which was developed and funded by the pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk following a series of discussions with patient groups, healthcare professionals, academics and other local stakeholders last year.

It said weight management support should not be influenced by a postcode lottery and called on the 42 integrated care systems which are expected to be put on a legal footing by July 1 to “provide a weight management service with minimum service standards".

It said services should be tailored to individual needs and insisted obesity should be a local priority within ICSs, as well as a national priority.

The report also called for healthcare professionals to undergo education and training “on the science of obesity” so they can help reduce patients’ experience of stigma, something that has stopped many people from seeking help. 

According to research commissioned by Novo Nordisk last year, 69 per cent of providers and commissioners said stigma associated with obesity was a barrier to referrals.

No GP follow-up

Another study last year revealed that after a discussion about weight, just 19 per cent of obese patients were scheduled to have a follow-up appointment with a GP even though 62 per cent wanted one.

Those patients said they felt a range of “complex and varied emotions” after a conversation about their weight with a healthcare professional, with individuals reporting variously that they felt supported, hopeful, motivated or embarrassed. 

The report’s final recommendation was for obesity to be better tracked and understood within local areas, for integrated care partnerships within ICSs to have obesity sub-committees containing an the local trust endocrinology unit’s obesity lead, a local authority obesity lead and a local patient representative and for an expansion of health checks within pharmacies.

Data from those health checks, the report said, should be added to the obesity profile on the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities FingerTips database to get a better understanding of the picture in local areas.

“These measures should be tailored and aimed at supporting those most likely to benefit from a health check, including those who live in more deprived areas and are more likely to be living with obesity,” the report said.

“As part of this, to widen access and alleviate pressure on GP services, consideration should be made on expanding NHS health checks in community pharmacy.”

National Pharmacy Association board member Sanjeev Panesar, who advised the report’s authors, said the organisation supported proposals to expand health checks in community pharmacy.

“The benefits of losing weight can be profound for mental and physical wellbeing. As pharmacists, we are frequently asked for advice about medicines to support weight loss, and we can also help people on their journey to a healthier lifestyle, which is vital for maintaining a healthy weight,” he said.

“This report is a reminder of the scale of the obesity challenge, which has become even more pressing due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

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