Ten more clinics for severely obese children will open this year as the NHS fights soaring hospital admissions among those youngsters.
The new specialist sites will take England’s total to 30 clinics helping 3,000 patients aged two to 18 a year.
It comes after hospital admissions for obese youngsters almost tripled in a decade, from 3,370 in 2011/12 to 9,431 in 2021/22.
The clinics will offer support to children and their families to get their weight under control and prevent conditions such as type 2 diabetes.
NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard is expected to announce the expansion at the NHSConfedExpo conference in Manchester today.
She will say: “Obesity can lead to a string of serious illnesses such as cancer and diabetes – bringing a terrible human cost, and also a real pressure on the NHS.
“Doing nothing now is not an option. And so these new clinics, will bring together a range of experts in one place providing intensive – but sensitive – physical and mental support for thousands of young people and their families.”
One in 10 four to five-year-olds were obese in 2021/22, with a further 12 percent overweight.
Among those aged 10 to 11, 23 percent were obese and 14 percent overweight. The clinics, backed by £18 million funding over the next two years, are staffed by specialist doctors, nurses, psychologists and dieticians.
They offer support including tailored care packages with diet plans, mental health care and coaching.
Professor Simon Kenny, NHS England’s national clinical director for children and young people, said: “Living with excess weight can cause problems affecting every organ system resulting in long term complications such as early death, type 2 diabetes, stroke, early joint replacements and mental health issues.
“These clinics’ holistic approach to treating obesity and its causes, will help children and young people in a way that respects them; and works with the specific factors of their individual situation.
“We are committed to helping as many children and young people as possible with their physical and mental health and these additional clinics are an important step in helping vulnerable children and young people live healthier and happier lives.”
Young patients can be referred to an NHS Complications from Excess Weight clinic if they have a body mass index (BMI) above the 99.6th centile and suffer health complications that meet a certain threshold.
Nicky, from Merseyside, was treated at an NHS clinic when they were 16 years old. After struggling with their weight for years, they saw a clinical psychologist and received help to set realistic goals.
Nicky said: “I’ve had such a positive experience with the clinic. They have helped me with both my mental and physical health and were really non-judgemental.
“I feel like this approach, prioritising mental health just as much as physical health is really important. I’m 18 now and I’m in a really good place with my weight loss journey. I’m in college and looking forward to the future.”
Health Minister Neil O’Brien said: “We want to give children and young people the best start in life, and we know that obesity is linked to a whole host of health problems – including cancer and cardiovascular disease.
“We’re determined to halve childhood obesity by 2030, and these clinics are a great step forward to get more youngsters the support they need to manage the complications linked to obesity and achieve a healthier weight.
“It builds on action to promote healthier lifestyles, including our £600 million investment over the next two years to promote school sport, and introducing the sugar tax, calorie labelling and restrictions on where unhealthy food is placed in supermarkets to reduce the use of ‘pester power’ by shops.”