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GPs need incentives to tackle obesity

Obesity register not enough, says charity

Jo Carlowe

Monday, 13 January 2014

GPs should be incentivised to take greater action to address obesity.

This is the message from the UK Association for the Study of Obesity (ASO) which today is calling for the government to take greater action to tackle the problem.

According to the organization, two thirds of adults and a third of children are overweight or obese and it argues that specific action is needed both on prevention and on treatment.

Recommendations include greater investment in the management of obesity by expanding the provision of specialist bariatric services and incentivising GPs to take greater action to address obesity through the Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF).

Current provision of bariatric surgery is patchy, the ASO claims, while the GP pay for performance scheme only rewards GPs for keeping a register of obese patients and not for supporting them to lose weight.

GP Professor Paul Aveyard, of the Department of Primary Care, at the University of Oxford said GPs could do more to tackle obesity.

“The QOF, our pay for performance scheme, pays us to record our patients’ weight and create an obesity register and also to weigh our patients with diabetes every year. We now know there are simple and cheap treatments that would help our patients to lose weight and their health would improve. GPs worry that talking about weight will upset our patients but our fears are largely groundless. If the Government changed the QOF I am sure it would give permission for GPs to talk to their patients about their weight and ensure they get the treatments that would improve their health.”

The ASO is also calling for action to control the marketing of energy dense foods and sugary drinks, particularly to children.

Commenting, Professor Jason Halford, chair of the ASO said: “Food promotion has proven effects on food choice beyond brands, encouraging children to over consume and swap to unhealthier options….Current regulation has proved insufficient to alter an environment that challenges child health. Critically, although we focus on the food producers, little action targets retailers, point of sale promotion or the heavy discounting of unhealthy options.”

A spokesperson for NHS England, said: “Tackling obesity is a priority for NHS England and other healthcare partners. What is clear is that prevention is the best cure, particularly a healthy lifestyle, diet and regular exercise.

“GPs train for many years so they can use their professional clinical judgment to provide medical advice and treatment that meets all aspects of a patient’s needs. Changes to the GP contract, from April 2014, are designed to reduce overly prescriptive bureaucracy and free up more time for GPs to do exactly this and ensure patients receive one coordinated service, whatever their needs.”

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