Funding announced for new GP weight management DES

22 June 2021

NHS England has announced £20 million for a new GP weight management directed enhanced service (DES), which will encourage GPs to develop a “supportive environment” to engage with obese patients about their weight.

NHS England has written to GPs to offer practices the voluntary opportunity to sign up to the scheme, which is one of two new enhanced services from 1 July, backed by £50 million additional funding for 2021 to 2022.

The new scheme will pay practices that sign up £11.50 per patient living with obesity who is referred to eligible weight management services, such as the new NHS Digital Weight Management Service.

NHS England said that GP identification of people with obesity, defined as a BMI over 30 or higher than 27.5 for those of Black, Asian and other minority ethnic groups, had fallen during the pandemic.

It will help practices put in place a proactive approach for identifying obesity that is “fit for purpose” when virtual consultations are being used. Patients will also be able to actively update their own records.

NHS England said that, from July, the NHS Digital Weight Management Service should become the default for obese patients with hypertension and or diabetes. It said this service will have capacity for up to 270,000 patients in this financial year.

Patients can also be referred to local authority funded tier 2 weight management services, the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme or tier 3 or 4 services.

The British Medical Association (BMA) said the weight management DES was clinically and practically flawed because it was overly bureaucratic, failed to put trust in GPs and their teams to do what is best for patients, and would make little difference to the country’s obesity crisis. BMA GP Committee Chair Dr Richard Vautrey also said it would “present significant rise in workload at a time when practices are at breaking point.”

The second voluntary scheme is supported with £30 million for a DES for GPs to treat patients with long Covid. Dr Vautrey said said: “The enhanced service focusing on long-Covid follows our lobbying and has more merit, providing much-needed additional funding to support practices in this crucially important and developing area.” 

Both DESs will start on 1 July.