1 Recommendations

1 Recommendations

Recommendation 1 Adopt an integrated approach to preventing and managing obesity

Local authorities, working with other local service providers, clinical commissioning groups and health and wellbeing boards, should:

  • Ensure there is an integrated approach to preventing and managing obesity and its associated conditions (see recommendation 1 in Obesity: working with local communities, NICE public health guidance 42). Systems should be in place to allow people to be referred to, or receive support from (or across) the different service tiers of an obesity pathway, as necessary. This includes referrals to and from lifestyle weight management programmes. All the options in the local obesity pathway should be made clear to both professionals and the public.

  • Identify local services, facilities or groups that could be included in the local obesity pathway, meet the needs of different groups and address the wider determinants of health. Examples include community walking groups or gardening schemes.

  • Ensure staff in local health services are aware of, and make referrals to, the lifestyle weight management service. This includes staff working in: GP teams, pharmacies, health visiting, the NHS Health Check programme and services for smoking cessation, fertility or type 2 diabetes.

  • Ensure lifestyle weight management services for adults meet local needs as identified by the joint strategic needs assessment (JSNA) and other local data.

Recommendation 2 Ensure services cause no harm

Public Health England, health and social care professionals, health and wellbeing boards, commissioners of health and social care services and providers of lifestyle weight management services (see Who should take action?) should:

  • Be aware of the effort needed to lose weight, prevent weight regain or avoid any further weight gain. Also be aware of the stigma that adults who are overweight or obese may feel or experience. Ensure the tone and content of all communications is respectful and non-judgemental (see recommendation 5 in Obesity: working with local communities, NICE public health guidance 42). In addition, the terminology used to describe someone's condition should respect how they like to be described.

  • Ensure equipment and facilities meet the needs of most adults who are overweight or obese. For example, referrers to, and providers of, lifestyle weight management services should ensure there are large blood pressure cuffs and suitably sized chairs without arms. Any new scales purchased should be able to accurately weigh the heaviest patients seen by the service.

  • Be aware that people may feel anxious about being weighed and measured. For example, respect someone's preference for privacy at the weekly weigh-in. (Note, although people may find a waist circumference measurement helpful for self-monitoring, it does not help to assess people with a BMI greater than 35 kg/m2.)

Recommendation 3 Raise awareness of local weight management issues among commissioners

Local authorities and Public Health England should ensure all those commissioning lifestyle weight management services are aware of:

  • the number of adults who are overweight or obese locally, including any variations in rates between different groups

  • the effect of the local environment and the wider determinants of health on the prevention and management of obesity

  • the local obesity pathway and the role of lifestyle weight management services in the local strategic approach to the prevention and management of obesity

  • the range of lifestyle weight management programmes that could be commissioned locally (see recommendation 12)

  • continuing professional development or training opportunities on weight management (see recommendation 14).

Recommendation 4 Raise awareness of lifestyle weight management services among health and social care professionals

Clinical commissioning groups, health and wellbeing boards, hospital and community trusts, local authorities, NHS England and Public Health England should:

  • Ensure health and social care professionals in contact with adults who are overweight or obese are made aware of:

    • the local obesity pathway and the local strategic approach to preventing and managing obesity

    • the range of local lifestyle weight management services available

    • national sources of accurate information and advice, such as NHS Choices and Change4life

    • continuing professional development or training opportunities on weight management (see recommendation 14).

Recommendation 5 Raise awareness of lifestyle weight management services among the local population

Local authorities and Public Health England should:

  • Ensure sources of information and advice about local lifestyle weight management services are included in any communications about being overweight or obese. This includes information provided by health and social care professionals working with adults (such as GPs, practice nurses, health visitors and pharmacists).

Public Health England, local authorities, health and wellbeing boards and clinical commissioning groups should ensure the local adult population is aware of:

  • The health benefits for adults who are overweight or obese of losing even a relatively small amount of weight and keeping it off in the long term (or avoiding any further weight gain). (See recommendation 7.)

  • The range of lifestyle weight management services available locally.

  • Local sources of information and advice such as GPs, practice nurses, health visitors and pharmacists.

  • National sources of accurate information and advice such as NHS Choices and Change4life.

Recommendation 6 Refer overweight and obese adults to a lifestyle weight management programme

GP practices and other health or social care professionals who give advice about, or refer people to, lifestyle weight management programmes (see Who should take action?) should:

  • Raise the issue of weight loss in a respectful and non-judgemental way. Recognise that this may have been raised on numerous occasions and respect someone's choice not to discuss it further on this occasion.

  • Identify people eligible for referral to lifestyle weight management services by measuring their body mass index (BMI). Also measure waist circumference for those with a BMI less than 35 kg/m2. Consider any other locally agreed risk factors.

  • For funded referrals, note that:

    • programmes may particularly benefit adults who are obese (that is, with a BMI over 30 kg/m2, or lower for those from black and minority ethnic groups) or with other risk factors (comorbidities such as type 2 diabetes)

    • where there is capacity, access for adults who are overweight should not be restricted (that is, for people with a BMI between 25 to 30 kg/m2, or lower for those from black and minority ethnic groups) or with other risk factors (comorbidities such as type 2 diabetes)

    • there should be no upper BMI or upper age limit for referral.

  • Provide information on programmes available locally, where possible, taking people's preferences and previous experiences into account. Be clear that no programme holds the 'magic bullet' or can guarantee long-term success.

  • Refer people to a group rather than an individual programme if they express no preference because, on average, group programmes tend to be more cost effective.

  • Ensure people who are overweight or obese who are not referred (for whatever reason) have an opportunity to discuss and reconsider attending a programme in the future. Discuss making a follow-up appointment at an agreed date (for example, in 3 to 6 months). Provide them with sources of information about how to make gradual, long-term changes to their dietary habits and physical activity levels (for example, NHS Choices).

  • Give people the opportunity for a re-referral, as necessary, because weight management is a long-term process. Use clinical judgement, taking into account the person's circumstances, previous experiences of weight management and commitment to change.

Recommendation 7 Address the expectations and information needs of adults thinking about joining a lifestyle weight management programme

GPs and other health or social care professionals advising or referring adults to lifestyle weight management programmes, and providers advising people who are thinking about joining programmes (see Who should take action?) should:

  • Discuss the importance and wider benefits of adults who are overweight or obese making gradual, long-term changes to their dietary habits and physical activity levels.

  • Discuss what the programme does and does not involve.

  • Discuss realistic weight-loss goals. People should be aware that:

    • The more weight they lose, the greater the health benefits, particularly if someone loses more than 5% of their body weight and maintains this for life.

    • On average, people attending a lifestyle weight management programme lose around 3% of their body weight, but this varies a lot.

    • Preventing future weight gain and maintaining a lower weight trajectory leads to health benefits.

  • Discuss the effort and commitment needed to lose weight and prevent weight regain, and the benefit of receiving long-term support. Discuss sources of long term support, such as from the practice nurse, pharmacist, local support group or weight management programme, online groups or networks, and friends or family.

Providers of lifestyle weight management services (see Who should take action?) should:

  • Discuss any previous or ongoing weight management strategies (acknowledge what the person has already achieved); any positive or negative experiences of weight management programmes; any concerns or barriers they may have about joining the programme; the process of change and meeting their personal goals.

  • Discuss other local services that may provide additional support (for example, local walking or gardening groups).

  • Discuss any financial costs (including any costs once a funded referral period has ended).

Recommendation 8 Improve programme uptake, adherence and outcomes

Providers of lifestyle weight management services (see Who should take action?) should:

  • At the outset, discuss with adults considering a lifestyle weight management programme:

    • what the programme does and does not involve

    • realistic goals they might hope or expect to achieve and the wider benefits of the programme

    • other local services that may provide additional support (for example, local walking or gardening groups)

    • any financial costs (including any costs once a funded referral has ended).

  • Explore with participants any issues that may affect their likelihood of benefiting from the programme. Discussions should take place at the outset and at other times, if someone is having difficulty attending or participating in the programme. Discussions may include:

    • any previous or ongoing strategies to manage their weight (acknowledge what the person has already achieved)

    • any positive or negative experiences of weight management programmes

    • any concerns they may have, or barriers they may face, in relation to joining the programme, the process of change or meeting their personal goals.

  • Agree with each person whether the programme is suitable for them at this time.

  • Use the regular weigh-in as an opportunity to monitor and review progress toward individual goals.

  • If it has not been possible to resolve someone's difficulties with the programme (for example, their attendance or participation), agree what should happen next. For example, they could be referred to another service, leave the programme at an agreed time, or think about being re-referred at a future date.

Recommendation 9 Commission programmes that include the core components for effective weight loss

Commissioners of lifestyle weight management services (see Who should take action?) should commission or recommend lifestyle weight management programmes that:

  • Are multi-component that is, they address dietary intake, physical activity levels and behaviour change.

  • Are developed by a multidisciplinary team. This includes input from a registered dietitian, registered practitioner psychologist and a qualified physical activity instructor.

  • Ensure staff are trained to deliver them and they receive regular professional development sessions.

  • Focus on life-long lifestyle change and the prevention of future weight gain.

  • Last at least 3 months, and that sessions are offered at least weekly or fortnightly and include a 'weigh-in' at each session.

  • Ensure achievable goals for weight loss are agreed for different stages – including within the first few weeks, for the end of the programme or referral period (as appropriate) and for 1 year (see recommendation 8).

  • Ensure specific dietary targets are agreed (for example, for a clear energy [calorie] intake or for a specific reduction in energy intake) tailored to individual needs and goals. Note: it is preferable not to 'ban' specific foods or food groups – and the price of any recommended dietary approaches should not be prohibitive. Individual advice from a registered dietitian may be beneficial, but is not essential.

  • Ensure discussions take place about how to reduce sedentary behaviour and the type of physical activities that can easily be integrated into everyday life and maintained in the long term (for example, walking).

  • Ensure any supervised physical activity sessions are led by an appropriately qualified physical activity instructor and take into account any medical conditions people may have. Instructors should be on the Register of Exercise Professionals (or equivalent) at level 3 or above.

  • Use a variety of behaviour-change methods. These should address: problem solving; goal setting; how to carry out a particular task or activity; planning to provide social support or make changes to the social environment; self-monitoring of weight and behaviours that can affect weight; and feedback on performance.

  • Tailor programmes to support the needs of different groups. For example, programmes should provide men- or women-only sessions as necessary; provide sessions at a range of times and in venues with good transport links or used by a particular community; and consider providing childcare for attendees.

  • Monitor weight, indicators of behaviour change and participants' personal goals throughout the programme.

  • Adopt a respectful, non-judgemental approach (see recommendation 2).

Recommendation 10 Commission programmes that include the core components to prevent weight regain

Commissioners should:

  • Commission or recommend lifestyle weight management programmes that address the prevention of weight regain by:

    • Fostering independence and self-management (including self-monitoring).

    • Discussing opportunities for ongoing support once the programme or referral period has ended. Sources of ongoing support may include the programme itself, online resources or support groups, other local services or activities, and family or friends.

    • Stressing the importance of maintaining new dietary habits and increased physical activity levels in the long term to prevent weight re‑gain and discussing strategies to overcome any difficulties in maintaining the new behaviours.

    • Encouraging dietary habits that will support weight maintenance and are sustainable in the long term. For example, programmes should emphasise how following national advice on healthy eating can support weight management. (For example, see NHS Choices.)

    • Promoting ways of being more physically active and less sedentary that are sustainable in the long term (for example, walking). The wider benefits of physical activity should also be emphasised.

Recommendation 11 Provide lifestyle weight management programmes based on the core components for effective weight loss and to prevent weight regain

Providers of lifestyle weight management programmes should:

  • ensure programmes are based on the core components for effective weight loss (see recommendation 9)

  • ensure programmes are based on the core components to prevent weight regain (see recommendation 10).

Recommendation 12 Provide a national source of information on effective lifestyle weight management programmes

Public Health England and other national agencies with an interest in the effectiveness of lifestyle weight management programmes should:

  • Work together to establish a national source of information on programmes suitable for commissioning. Any national database should be regularly updated.

  • Work with providers and commissioners of lifestyle weight management programmes to agree a standard format and process for providing robust, consistent and regularly updated information on programmes.

Providers of lifestyle weight management programmes (public, private or voluntary organisations) should demonstrate that their programmes:

  • Are effective at 12 months or beyond. (The following programmes currently available in the UK have been shown to be effective at 12 to 18 months: [in alphabetical order] Rosemary Conley, Slimming World and Weight Watchers.)

  • Meet best practice criteria for commissioning (see recommendation 13).

  • Meet the core components for weight loss and the prevention of weight regain (see recommendations 9 and 10).

Recommendation 13 Ensure contracts for lifestyle weight management programmes include specific outcomes and address local needs

Clinical commissioning groups, health and wellbeing boards and local authorities should:

  • Commission a range of lifestyle weight management programmes. For example, both group and individual programmes might be needed to meet the needs and preferences of different groups).

  • Use the Department of Health's best practice guidance for weight management services. In particular, commission programmes that:

    • at least 60% of participants are likely to complete

    • are likely to lead to an average weight loss of at least 3%, with at least 30% of participants losing at least 5% of their initial weight.

  • Ensure contracts clearly specify:

    • The geographic areas and population groups that the programme should cover. Adequate provision should be made for disadvantaged groups, such as those on a lower income.

    • The additional efforts that may be needed to get specific groups involved (based on discussions with providers and referrers).

    • Who will undertake routine evaluation and what measures will be collected. (Adherence to data protection and information governance requirements should not stop services from providing this data – see recommendations 16 and 17.)

  • Ensure monitoring takes place 12 months after the programme is completed. This may involve working with providers of lifestyle weight management programmes or commissioning an additional service.

  • Consider commissioning additional services to prevent weight regain. For example, consider providing support to establish or expand local support groups or networks that may encourage self-management.

  • Ensure lifestyle weight management programmes are complemented by a range of activities or services that address the wider determinants of health. This includes, for example, providing safe cycle and walking routes or restrictions in planning permission for takeaways and other food and drink outlets in specific areas.

  • Review programmes that do not meet agreed uptake, provision or outcome targets. Amend or de-commission programmes as appropriate.

Recommendation 14 Provide continuing professional development on lifestyle weight management for health and social care professionals

Those responsible for setting competences and continuing professional development programmes for health professionals (see Who should take action?) should:

  • Ensure professional development training on weight management is available for health and social care professionals. (Also see recommendation 13 in 'Obesity: working with local communities', NICE public health guidance 42.)

  • Train GPs and other health and social care professionals to identify when to raise weight management with someone and to do so confidently, but with empathy. They should understand why many adults have difficulty managing their weight and the experiences they may face in relation to it. This includes considering the effect of their attitudes to, and any concerns about, their own weight. (Also see recommendations 9 and 13 in 'Obesity: working with local communities', NICE public health guidance 42.)

  • Train GPs and other health and social care professionals to accurately measure and record height and weight, determine body mass index (BMI) and accurately measure waist circumference.

  • Train GPs and other health and social care professionals to understand the practical skills and behaviours that can help someone lose or maintain their weight and how to provide ongoing support and encouragement. This includes encouraging people to self-manage and self-monitor their weight and any associated behaviours over the long term.

  • Train GPs and other health and social care professionals to discuss the likely benefits of a lifestyle weight management programme with service users, taking into account someone's personal circumstances. For example, they should take into account any associated medical conditions or personal factors, such as someone's commitment to change.

  • Train GPs and other health and social care professionals in how to help people make an informed decision about the best weight management option for them. They should also be able to refer people to the most appropriate weight management service. This includes identifying people with more complex needs and referring them to appropriate services (such as mental health, psychological or alcohol services).

  • Train GPs and other health and social care professionals to identify when someone may benefit from re-referral to a lifestyle weight management programme.

Recommendation 15 Provide training and continuing professional development for lifestyle weight management programme staff

Lifestyle weight management services, professional bodies and training organisations (see Who should take action?) should:

  • Develop training for lifestyle weight management programme staff with qualified professionals such as registered practitioner psychologists, registered dietitians and qualified physical activity specialists. Ensure this training addresses staff attitudes to, and any concerns about, their own weight.

  • Train staff to communicate effectively with, and generally adopt a respectful and non-judgemental approach to, participants. They should work collaboratively with them. This means they should understand the complexity of weight management and the reasons why many people have difficulty managing their weight, the experiences they may face in relation to their weight, and the fact that they may feel anxious about attending the programme. They should also be clear and open about what the programme involves, so that participants can make an informed choice about whether or not to join.

  • Train staff to deliver multicomponent programmes that cover weight management, dietary habits, safe physical activity and behaviour-change strategies. This should include the ability to:

    • tailor interventions to individual needs (considering, for example, any specific language or literacy needs)

    • review progress and provide constructive feedback to both participants and referrers

    • identify possible reasons for relapse and use problem-solving techniques to address these

    • collect information about people's weight, eating habits and physical activity to support monitoring in line with the Department of Health's information governance and data protection requirements (for example, see the Public Health Services Contract 2014/15: guidance on the non-mandatory contract for public health services.)

  • Train staff to accurately measure and record height and weight to determine body mass index (BMI) and to accurately measure waist circumference. They should also be sensitive to how people feel about being measured and able to identify when it is practical, relevant and appropriate to measure someone.

  • Ensure staff are aware of the common medical and psychological problems associated with being overweight or obese.

  • Ensure staff are aware of evidence on the effect of dietary habits and physical activity on weight gain, loss and maintenance.

  • Ensure staff are aware of the practical skills and behaviours that can help someone lose or maintain their weight. This includes, for example, shopping and cooking skills, understanding food labels and knowing what constitutes an appropriate portion of food. It also includes being able to identify opportunities to be less sedentary and more physically active.

  • Train staff to identify when a participant should be referred to their GP for potential onward referral to other services (for example, specialist weight management or other specialist services, such as alcohol counselling).

  • Ensure staff leading supervised physical activity sessions are qualified and insured (for example, they should be trained to at least level 3 on the register of exercise professionals or equivalent).

  • Train staff to identify any gaps in their own knowledge, confidence or skills and ensure they know how to get these gaps addressed through further training.

Recommendation 16 Improve information sharing on people who attend a lifestyle weight management programme

  • Commissioners of lifestyle weight management services should work with all referrers and providers to put systems in place to share any relevant information, in confidence, about people referred to lifestyle weight management programmes. (Examples of relevant information include details of someone's weight at baseline, programme end and at 12 months.) This should be in line with the Department of Health's information governance and data protection requirements (for example, see Public Health Services Contract 2014/15: guidance on the non-mandatory contract for public health services).

  • Referrers to, and providers of, lifestyle weight management programmes should seek the consent of participants to share between them any relevant information (see above) on the participant's progress. Explain that this information will be used to help monitor and evaluate the service.

Recommendation 17: Monitor and evaluate programmes

Commissioners and providers of lifestyle weight management programmes, professionals who make referrals, services that help prevent weight regain, and monitoring services (see Who should take action?) should:

  • Use the standard evaluation framework for weight management programmes and validated tools to monitor interventions.

  • Ensure the scales used for monitoring people's weight are regularly calibrated (see recommendation 2).

  • As a minimum, collect and assess the following information on participants at the end of the programme, in line with the Department of Health's Best practice criteria for weight management services:

    • Weight – to calculate total and percent weight change. Do not rely on self-reported measures of height or weight.

    • Percent of participants losing more than 3% of their baseline weight.

    • Percent of participants losing more than 5% of their baseline weight.

    • Percent adherence to the programme.

    • Age, gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic status (for example, as indicated by the postcode of participants), so that the effect on health inequalities can be assessed.

  • Collect details on how each participant's weight has changed 12 months after the programme is completed (see recommendation 16).

  • Consider collecting and assessing other outcomes, for example:

    • changes in other measures of body fatness, such as waist circumference

    • changes in dietary habits, physical activity and sedentary behaviour

    • changes in self-esteem, depression or anxiety

    • changes in health outcomes, such as blood pressure

    • the views and experience of participants who completed the programme

    • the views and experience of participants who did not complete the programme, and any changes in their weight

    • the views of staff delivering the programme and of those referring participants to it.

Recommendation 18 Monitor and evaluate local provision

Commissioners of lifestyle weight management services, health and wellbeing boards and local authorities should:

  • Regularly review lifestyle weight management services for adults to ensure they meet local needs (as identified by the joint strategic needs assessment), any gaps in provision should be identified and adherence and outcomes should be reported to agreed standards.

  • Monitor awareness of the programmes among health and social care professionals and potential users (see recommendations 4 and 5).

  • Collect data on referral routes to identify geographical areas where awareness of available programmes is low and where referral rates might be increased.

  • Collate the results of routine monitoring and programme expenditure. Analyse these results in relation to the characteristics of the local population (for example, urban versus rural groups and between the general population and minority ethnic groups).

  • Amend, improve or decommission programmes based on these findings.

See also recommendation 10 in 'Obesity: working with local communities' (NICE public health guidance 42).

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