Obese Sunderland patients in line for taxpayer-funded weight-loss classes

Image by � Royalty-Free/Corbis
Image by � Royalty-Free/Corbis
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WEARSIDERS struggling with the battle of the bulge could be referred to state-funded weight-loss classes under plans to slash obesity rates.

Advice from the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (Nice) says the cost of 12-week courses run by commercial providers – at about £50 per head – will outweigh the potential savings to the NHS.

Figures show almost 70 per cent of people in Sunderland are overweight or obese, according to their Body Mass Index (BMI).

The North East is the fattest region in the country, with 68 per cent of people overweight or obese.

Wendy George, who runs five Slimming World sessions at St Gabriel’s Church, in Chester Road, backs the proposals. She said: “If you are an alcoholic or a gambler you can get help, so people with weight problems should too.

“The NHS have tried something like this before and it was very successful.

“There’s a lot of blame on the individual, but with weight issues, it is everybody’s fault, from the way that food is marketed these days, to the fact this generation has been brought up with both parents working, and no-one at home to cook.”

The suggestion is a quarter of adults classed as obese should first be offered free places on “weight management” programme, with spaces found for those deemed “overweight” wherever possible.

Those who pay their membership of Weight Watchers or Slimming World pay £6 to £10 a week, on top of a £10 joining fee.

Under State-sponsored schemes, councils could negotiate slightly-lower rates, with schemes expected to spend about £53 per person, Nice said.

Councillor John Kelly, portfolio holder for health at Sunderland City Council, said: “There is much more that needs to be done to support people to make positive and healthy choices.

“The Nice suggestions are welcome and we must all continue to work together to influence the health of our future generations and reduce obesity wherever we can.”

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