Health concerns raised by Don at Holyrood

Angus North & Mearns MSP Nigel Don has asked the Scottish Government to consider a recent study showing that NHS weight loss programmes could be more effective.

At the recent Parliamentary Health Question Time, Mr Don highlighted new research from Birmingham published in the British Medical Journal. Some 740 men and women who were obese or overweight enough to qualify for NHS treatment took part in the study. Some were given free use of gym facilities, others had one to one sessions with NHS staff and pharmacists trained in weight loss techniques.

Others were placed in group programmes run by NHS dietitians, and the rest of the slimmers were placed in commercial weight groups such as Weight Watchers and Rosemary Conley.

The research found that after twelve weeks, the most successful slimmers were in the commercial programmes. After a year, the commercial programmes still showed the best results and the study concluded that: “Commercially provided weight management services are more effective and cheaper than primary care based services led by specially trained staff, which are ineffective.“

Mr Don said: “I asked my question because I believe in continuous improvement. The NHS should never be above learning from others about better ways to do things, and I think there are two ways to respond to the results of this research.

The first is to examine the techniques used by the commercial companies and learn from them.

The second is for the NHS to refer patients to commercial programmes when appropriate.

“I think we need to be clear that clinical judgement remains with the medical staff, and we should recognise the efforts of those working in all the varied programmes.”