COVID-19: Fast-track Diabetes Prevention Advice

Nicky Broyd

July 27, 2020

NHS England is fast-tracking people at risk of type 2 diabetes onto the Healthier You NHS diabetes prevention programme from today.

The move is in response to increasing evidence of worse COVID-19 outcomes and mortality among diabetes patients and people who are obese.

A third of COVID-19 hospital deaths were among those with diabetes.

Also announced today was the Government's obesity policy paper for England, which includes incentives for GPs promoting weight loss.

Online Tool

Access to the programme is via a Diabetes UK online tool which gives a diabetes risk score.

Those with moderate or high scores can self-refer to local services without seeing their GP.

Interventions may include:

  • Group or individual online or phone coaching sessions

  • Education on lifestyle choices and healthy eating

  • Use of wearable devices to track exercise

Diabetes UK Senior Clinical Advisor Emma Elvin said: "Currently, 12.3 million people in the UK are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Not all of those at risk live with obesity or carry excess weight, but as many as 3 in 5 of these cases could be prevented or delayed with the right support." 

Shift the Pounds

"The evidence is now in: severe obesity can double your chance of dying from coronavirus," NHS England Chief Executive Sir Simon Stevens said in a statement.

"So this pandemic is a call to arms to adopt medically-proven changes in what we eat and how we exercise. That’s why the NHS is going to accelerate its offer to help, including through wide uptake of our diabetes prevention programme, which helps people shift the pounds, avoid type 2 diabetes, and also slash the risk of severe coronavirus."

In August, there will also be a campaign targeting British black and South Asian communities, who have a higher risk of type 2 diabetes at younger ages, together with worse coronavirus outcomes.

Of the people completing the programme previously, average weight loss of 3.6kg, greater than originally predicted, was achieved.

Targeted Project

Professor Andrew Goddard, president of the Royal College of Physicians commented: "The Healthier You NHS Diabetes Prevention programme is an example of a targeted project, successfully helping people to lose weight and reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes. It also shows how preventative measures can reduce the pressure on NHS services.

"The programme demonstrates that there is a role for behaviour change interventions, but if we are really to make a difference to obesity levels, we need to ensure that people living with obesity are able to access NICE approved treatments.

"There is a real need to improve access to these services and change how we manage obesity in the NHS. We should start by recognising obesity as a disease.”


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