NHS facing an obesity epidemic

By Ian Dipple Friday 17 January 2014 Updated: 17/01 10:59

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THE HEALTH service is facing an epidemic of obesity related conditions which could take decades to reverse a leading Redditch GP has warned.

Dr Jonathan Wells, a GP for 20 years and chair of Redditch and Bromsgrove CCG, said the NHS alone would not be able to deal with a problem costing the county's health service £80million a year.

In Redditch the number of obese adults has increased from 23.9 per cent to 28.6 per cent in the last six years - more than 17,000 people - and with it has come a rise in related conditions including diabetes.

About 80 to 85 per cent of Type 2 diabetes cases are related to obesity, and according to the latest health and well-being profile in Redditch there are about 2,894 of those in the borough.

Dr Wells said in his own surgery, Hillview Medical Practice, they used to diagnose one new diabetic a

month but the figure had now increased to two to three a week.

"I've literally seen patients becoming bigger over the years. We are now seeing an epidemic of obesity complications the main one of which is diabetes," he told the Standard in an interview for National

Obesity Awareness Week.

"The evidence at the moment is people are still getting overweight so there's all these people in their 20s and 30s who over the next ten or 20 years are going to develop these conditions. The implications for the health service are huge and it's vital we get in there and deal with this problem in advance, but you are looking at intervening now in childhood and young adults to prevent problems in 20 to 30 years time."

He said in his own surgery they were now labelling patients as pre-diabetes and offering information packs, enrolling them with activity advisers and in some cases using anti-diabetic medication before they got to the stage where they developed diabetes.

But Dr Wells added intervention at an earlier age was key, which posed a major challenge to GPs.

"The average patient consults us six to eight times a year and that tends to be younger patients with children or the elderly with conditions so it is a problem for GPs in the health service picking up people in their 20s to 30s who are likely to go on to develop obesity. What tends to happen is we pick them up too late when they have diabetes," he added.

"Ideally we should be intervening at a much younger age, in fact during childhood, to educate people to make people understand about exercise, eating healthily and not getting overweight in the first place because it is so much harder to lose weight once you are overweight.

"For that, GPs have less of a role there because we simply don't see the patients, it is governmental, it's public health, it's education and society."

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