Council shells out big sums to help people in Oxfordshire shed weight

Annika Price

Annika Price Buy this photo

First published in News
Last updated
Herald Series: Photograph of the Author by , Health reporter, also covering Kidlington. Call me on 01865 425271

ALMOST £700,000 of taxpayers’ money has been spent on sending more than 12,000 overweight and obese residents to diet groups, the Oxford Mail can reveal.

Some 12,219 have been referred by their GP since 2010 to 12-week courses at Weight Watchers or Slimming World at £48.50 or £47.30 respectively.

If all attended at the lower cost, that would mean a total paid out of £577,958.

And another 133 have been referred to weight loss firm MoreLife since it began to help the most challenging cases since September.

The 12-month programme costs the council about £800 for each person – meaning the bill amounts to £106,400.

It comes after the first survey of adults’ weight in Oxfordshire reported 60.7 per cent were overweight or obese.

The 12,219 went to the Slimming Referral Programme from 2010 so “patients can learn the importance of healthy eating and exercise,” council guidance says.

Those with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more are offered the classes, though this is lower for some ethnic minorities.

A 35-year-old man who is 15st and 5ft 9in tall would have a BMI of 31 while a 35-year-old woman who is 13st and 5ft 5in would have a BMI of 30.2.

The long-established MoreLife service saw 1,086 people from September 2010 to August 2013.

Council health improvement principal Kate King said: “There isn’t a silver bullet to this problem.

“We need to tackle this in lots of different ways and one is identifying people at risk.”

The “first port of call should be self care and support” she said.

But the classes are for those who “need more help”.

Easy access to high calorie food makes it “very difficult for people, even if you are quite determined and want to try and keep your weight in check”.

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She said: “It is not surprising that people are overweight.”

She said tackling obesity was vital in the fight against conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and cancer.

The 60.7 per cent figure was from a new part of an annual Sport England survey of about 875 county people about lifestyles. It is below the England average of 64 per cent.

Oxfordshire had the third highest rate of obese and overweight respondents – a BMI of 25 or more – after Bracknell Forest, at 66.2 per cent, and Buckinghamshire at 64.4 per cent.

Ms King said: “I would say that was what we would expect. It wasn’t shocking.

“I think we have known that levels in Oxfordshire are higher than we would like them to be.”

Children aged four or five in reception year and 10 to 11 in year 6 have been weighed at school to provide data on lifestyles since 2006.

The rate of overweight children has changed little, from 12.2 per cent in reception and 13 per cent in year 6 in 2006/07 to 11.9 per cent and 13.4 per cent in 2012/13.

Figures on obese reception class children fell from eight per cent to 6.4 per cent over that period, but only from 15.3 per cent to 15.1 per cent in year 6.

The council has a £26m budget to promote public health, a role it took over from the NHS last April.

‘Short-term help has to be the best way forward’

Annika Price, 28, lost seven-and-a-half stone in six months after following the Cambridge Weight Plan, which involves eating three specified snacks each day – a milkshake or a cereal bar – until the target weight is reached.

The mum-of-two from Didcot, who weighed 17 stone and now weighs nine-and-a-half stone, said: “I didn’t go through the NHS. I paid the cost myself to lose the weight.

“I do have friends who go to Weight Watchers, so have been using vouchers from doctors’ surgeries.

Herald Series:

Annika Price before she started her weight loss programme

“I do believe anything to help you lose weight is expensive.

“From my opinion, in the long run, this benefits the NHS in getting people healthy. Being overweight, you are at risk of diabetes, heart disease.”

She added: “It is quite hard, because a lot of people would be against their money going towards it. But there are people out there who do need help to lose weight. Isn’t it better that the NHS does help and in the long term it costs less for the taxpayers?”

Comments (8)

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8:47am Mon 17 Feb 14

EMBOX2 says...

Do I get some money for keeping myself in good shape?
Do I get some money for keeping myself in good shape? EMBOX2
  • Score: 4

8:49am Mon 17 Feb 14

Andrew:Oxford says...

It's not hard... Eat less and exercise more!

The food labelling probably doesn't help the weak minded though...

Green - Meh
Amber - Probably tasty
Red - Satisfying and delicious

With the eye naturally being drawn to the red logo.
It's not hard... Eat less and exercise more! The food labelling probably doesn't help the weak minded though... Green - Meh Amber - Probably tasty Red - Satisfying and delicious With the eye naturally being drawn to the red logo. Andrew:Oxford
  • Score: 0

11:16am Mon 17 Feb 14

Richard of Wantage says...

Congratulations to those who lost weight you most be feeling much healthier. I applaud those who lost weight at their own expense.

What I'm not happy is that a much needed £700k is being spent with a private company to tell people how to lose weight. There is so much free advice in newspapers, magazines and on the internet that they do not need the services of Weight Watchers. The £700k could have been spent on children services, home care for the elderly etc.

If you want to lose weight please do go to the doctor for advice, but you don't need for us to pay for you to join Weight Watchers. Weight Watchers will not lose your weight; the only person who will lose your weight is yourself.
Congratulations to those who lost weight you most be feeling much healthier. I applaud those who lost weight at their own expense. What I'm not happy is that a much needed £700k is being spent with a private company to tell people how to lose weight. There is so much free advice in newspapers, magazines and on the internet that they do not need the services of Weight Watchers. The £700k could have been spent on children services, home care for the elderly etc. If you want to lose weight please do go to the doctor for advice, but you don't need for us to pay for you to join Weight Watchers. Weight Watchers will not lose your weight; the only person who will lose your weight is yourself. Richard of Wantage
  • Score: 8

12:37pm Mon 17 Feb 14

penny51 says...

funny that is cause my daughter 25 she overweight going doctors cause has stomach trouble this going on 3 years or more not helped her plus for people on benefits cant efford to pay on these watchers stuff most us have make sure we got money pay out bills benefits not enough even if we all looking for work
funny that is cause my daughter 25 she overweight going doctors cause has stomach trouble this going on 3 years or more not helped her plus for people on benefits cant efford to pay on these watchers stuff most us have make sure we got money pay out bills benefits not enough even if we all looking for work penny51
  • Score: -6

1:25pm Mon 17 Feb 14

Tidkin says...

So people on benefits get vouchers paid for by the tax payer to go to Weight Watchers or alternative companies. If they can afford enough food to get obese they shouldn't be given these vouchers. The answer is to watch the calories (look at the labels or get a calorie counting book), generally eat less and exercise more. The only exception should be for those who are actually physically disabled so that they can't excerise/walk etc. Some people are unable to walk far because of their obesity but that isn't a disability. I know someone who one minute is going to Weight Watchers (paid by themselves) but then goes back to gorging and saying "Life it too short to diet". Yes food tastes nice but the results of too much look hideous. Down to willpower in the end.
So people on benefits get vouchers paid for by the tax payer to go to Weight Watchers or alternative companies. If they can afford enough food to get obese they shouldn't be given these vouchers. The answer is to watch the calories (look at the labels or get a calorie counting book), generally eat less and exercise more. The only exception should be for those who are actually physically disabled so that they can't excerise/walk etc. Some people are unable to walk far because of their obesity but that isn't a disability. I know someone who one minute is going to Weight Watchers (paid by themselves) but then goes back to gorging and saying "Life it too short to diet". Yes food tastes nice but the results of too much look hideous. Down to willpower in the end. Tidkin
  • Score: 5

2:35pm Mon 17 Feb 14

Sid Hunt says...

Put the fatties on treadmills linked to generators, 'green' energy and health benefits combined.
Put the fatties on treadmills linked to generators, 'green' energy and health benefits combined. Sid Hunt
  • Score: 2

2:08am Tue 18 Feb 14

TonyH says...

As comments say, no secret here. By and large (!!) you are what you eat. Sure, a few may have real medical problems that need intervention, but for most this money is as wasted as most of what they eat.
As comments say, no secret here. By and large (!!) you are what you eat. Sure, a few may have real medical problems that need intervention, but for most this money is as wasted as most of what they eat. TonyH
  • Score: 0

4:36pm Tue 18 Feb 14

Adrian1 says...

Here's an idea, daily attendance at surgery for 1 hour on exercise bicycle attached to generator, get ten installed and it should power a few doctors laptops and save a bit on the energy bills. I'm around 33BMI by the way. Quick check on the scales on the way out and a 'well done' comment if it was less than yesterday,... maybe a cup of water too, I could go for that.
Here's an idea, daily attendance at surgery for 1 hour on exercise bicycle attached to generator, get ten installed and it should power a few doctors laptops and save a bit on the energy bills. I'm around 33BMI by the way. Quick check on the scales on the way out and a 'well done' comment if it was less than yesterday,... maybe a cup of water too, I could go for that. Adrian1
  • Score: -1

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