Weight Watchers 'should be prescribed on the NHS'

NICE proposes Weight Watchers be prescribed on the NHSPic: Jupiter Images

Weight Watchers should be prescribed by GPs in a bid to combat the growing problem of the obesity epidemic, Britain's health watchdog has suggested today.

According to the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE), overweight or obese patients could be sent on the 12-week slimming courses, which normally cost £100, free on the NHS.

The Daily Mail reports that the UK has the second highest rate of obesity in Europe, with almost 25 per cent of British adults classed as obese and a further 40 per cent overweight.

And NICE claims that just losing a small amount of weight via a slimming programme could save the NHS some of the estimated £5.1 billion it spends each year treating obesity-related illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease.

The proposed guidelines advise GPs to prioritise those with long-term health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease, but also suggest referring those obese or overweight patients who have yet to develop a problem.

NICE claims that if patients lose less than a stone, it will save the NHS money, despite the cost of the programmes prescribed.

Some patients are already sent to slimming classes, with an estimated £800,000 a year going on Weight Watchers programmes, but the new guidelines would likely lead to many more being referred.

However, some have questioned the long-term benefit of such classes, with obesity expert Dr Ian Campbell telling the Mail: "The vast majority of existing weight loss companies don't offer significant support to achieve behavioural change, nor do they have evidence of long-term results."

What do you think? Are prescribed weight loss classes a waste of NHS money? Leave your comments below...