NHS treatment centres for children with obesity to open in England - here's how they will work

By Helen Johnson
Tuesday, 16th November 2021, 12:13 pm
Updated Tuesday, 16th November 2021, 12:13 pm
Specialist NHS clinics for severely obese children and young people are to be set up in England as part of an intervention scheme  (Photo: Shutterstock)
Specialist NHS clinics for severely obese children and young people are to be set up in England as part of an intervention scheme (Photo: Shutterstock)

Specialist NHS clinics for severely obese children and young people are to be set up in England as part of an intervention scheme.

But why are these clinics being put in place and where will they be located?

Here’s what you need to know.

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Why are the specialist NHS clinics being set up?

Obesity affects one in five children in the UK, with the number of children living with obesity in England doubling from the start of primary school to the end of primary school.

A pilot of 15 clinics across the country will provide more than 1,000 children a year - aged between two and 18 - specialist treatment in order to support weight loss.

Tailored care packages will be developed with the child’s family and will include diet plans, mental health treatment and coaching.

Early action will be aimed at preventing long-term health problems such as type 2 diabetes, health attacks, strokes and cancer.

The new clinics will include group sessions with a full clinical team, support from dieticians, psychologists, specialist nurses, social workers, youth workers and a paediatrician.

The services aim to identify the factors causing obesity in children, considering their mental and physical health, with the pilot delivering on the NHS Long Term Plan to treat children for severe complications related to their obesity and avoid the need for more invasive treatment.

The pilot is based on an existing service in Bristol Royal hospital for Children, which has been supporting children in the area since 2018. The Care of Childhood Obesity (CoCO) clinic has treated thousands of children from across the south-west since its launch.

The National Child Measurement Programme 2020-21 report for England published by NHS Digital found that obesity rates in both reception-aged and year 6 school children increased by around 4.5 percentage points between 2019-20 and 2020-21, which is the highest annual rise since the National Child Measurement Programme began.

In 2006-07 - the earliest year for which comparable data is available for this age group - obesity rates stood at 9.9%.

Obesity prevalence among four and five-year-olds in reception classes rose from 9.9% in 2019-20 to 14.4% in 2020-21.

Among year 6 pupils, who are aged 10 and 11, obesity prevalence increased from 21.0% in 2019-20 to 25.5% in 2020-21.

The earliest comparable figures for this age group are from 2009-10, when obesity prevalence was 18.7%.

Amanda Pritchard, the chief executive of NHS England, said: “The pandemic has shone a harsh light on obesity – with many vulnerable young people struggling with weight gain during the pandemic. Left unchecked, obesity can have other very serious consequences, ranging from diabetes to cancer.”

She said the new services “are a landmark moment” in efforts to help children and young people “lead longer, healthier and happier lives”.

Where will the 15 clinics be located?

The 15 new centres will be based across the country in the following locations:

1. Derriford Hospital2. Southampton University Hospitals3. Kent and Medway CCG outreach clinic4. East London (Kings College London Hospital and Bart’s Health NHS Trust)5. West London (covered by Great Ormand Street Hospital, University Hospital London and Tavistock Hospital)6. Addenbrooke’s Hospital7. Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals8. Birmingham Women and Children’s9. Nottingham Children’s Hospital / Leicester Royal Infirmary10. Sheffield Children’s Hospital11. Alder Hey Children’s Hospital12. Manchester Children’s Hospital13. Royal Preston14. Leeds Teaching Hospital15. South Tees Hospital