The RCP has today published its response to the Welsh government consultation on Healthy Weight: Healthy Wales, its draft strategy to prevent and reduce obesity.
RCP vice president for Wales, Dr Gareth Llewelyn said:
Obesity is not a lifestyle choice. It is a disease caused by health inequalities, genetic influences and social factors. There is no easy solution to tackling obesity and ministers across all government departments will need to show leadership and come together to help people live more healthily. This draft strategy clearly recognises the complex nature of obesity, and this should be welcomed. But it doesn’t go far enough.
While it’s excellent news that obesity is to become a Tier 1 target for health boards, the obesity epidemic is already costing the Welsh NHS millions of pounds every year and puts patients at high risk of developing conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure and stroke which can have a devastating impact on families across Wales. Without health board investment in specialist services, we will continue to see a rise in hospital admissions for obesity-related conditions.
That’s why I’m disappointed to see that we’re still waiting for the Welsh government to explain how they’re going to help people who are already obese. There was scant involvement of frontline clinicians, including bariatric physicians and surgeons in the actual drafting of the document which means that there is little to no attention given to treatment options for those with obesity. This is a major oversight that weakens the draft strategy. Prevention and early intervention are vital, but not at the expense of those who are already overweight and obese, who also need our help. Wales has the highest childhood obesity rates in the UK – we are already at crisis point.
Obesity is a life-changing disease and too many people are already falling through the gaps. Health boards were told to implement the all Wales obesity pathway almost a decade ago, but we’ve seen very little or no progress in most parts of the country. We desperately need more specialist medical services with clinical and psychological support for those with severe and complex obesity – the Welsh government must take immediate action to ensure that a new clinical obesity pathway is developed, resourced and implemented as soon as possible.
Key recommendations from the RCP Cymru Wales response
- All patients with obesity should have access to a resourced, patient-centred and clinically led specialist treatment service.
- The Welsh government should hold health boards to account over their responsibility to provide a full obesity pathway.
- Health boards should appoint a senior executive board member to be responsible for developing a level 3 service.
- Every health board should appoint an obesity lead: a senior clinician appointed to provide information and act as the link between the health board, patients and the community.
- NHS Wales should develop a patient charter, setting out how health boards and patients will work together as equal partners to develop obesity services.