Is the NHS in crisis over escalating levels of obesity in the UK?

Posted: 19/09/2014


Ahead of the five year plan for the NHS which is due to be released next month, it has been reported today that the NHS may be under threat due to obesity costs throughout the UK. There are growing concerns that the NHS may need to spend more to prevent a healthcare crisis in the near future.

NHS England has compared obesity to smoking in terms of the impact on health and treatment costs. The chief executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens, has gone as far to say that 'Obesity is the new smoking… It represents a slow-motion car crash in terms of avoidable illness and rising health care costs'.

Alarm bells have been sounded over the fact that obesity could bankrupt Britain’s health services unless preventative measures are taken to tackle and address obesity head on. NHS England needs to focus on upgrading programmes to prevent obesity and raise awareness across the country.  

The BBC has reported that weight loss surgery is a significant cost to the NHS and that it spends more on operations to shrink the stomach than on using weight loss intervention programmes. It is estimated that the problem already costs the NHS roughly £9 billion a year.

There has been debate as to whether incentives should be given to employers so that they can encourage their staff to become healthier. Another option under consideration is providing local councils extra power to make decisions about issues such as tobacco, alcohol and fast food.

As a result of the increase in obesity, it has been reported that there has been a rise in type two diabetes. The NHS has declared that it is, as a whole, dedicated to tackling this problem. Professor Jonathan Valabhji, national clinical director for obesity and diabetes, has stated: "We clearly need a concerted effort on the prevention, early diagnosis and management of diabetes to slow its significant impact not only on individual lives but also on the NHS."

Says Natalie Churney, clinical negligence associate at Penningtons Manches: "Obesity must be targeted by the NHS to ensure that all programmes and preventative measures are publicised in the right way so that individuals can get the help and assistance they need. This may result in the NHS spending more to reduce the increased rates of obesity. However, preventative measures are clearly needed to tackle the issue. We hope in the long term this problem will become more manageable and the health crisis will subside."


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