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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Obesity treatment backlog

NHS bosses tackle waiting list amid budget cuts

Hundreds of people are on a waiting list for specialist weight loss treatment in the city after budget cuts and rising obesity levels caused a backlog.

The Tier 3 Weight Management service, designed for adults with severe and complex obesity, had to be closed to new referrals in July last year.

A team of doctors, physiotherapists, dieticians and mental health workers were commissioned to help 250 people per year, but faced a caseload of more than 1,000 at the end of December.

Around half of those are receiving treatment while the rest remain on the waiting list while the backlog is cleared, NHS bosses said.

The service is delivered by Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust (LCH) and helps people with a body mass index of 40 or higher, or 35 if they have other health problems.

New treatments like the weight loss drug Wegovy could be used as part of a re-organisation of the weight-loss service.

But a report to LCH’s board meeting said the Integrated Care Board (ICB),  which commissions NHS services, was concerned about the cost.

It said: “The waiting list continues to grow and remains significantly above contracted levels.

“New drug therapies have been approved for use, however the ICB is concerned about the financial impact to the system of a large-scale roll out, and so our service is working with the commissioners to deliver a phased approach.”

NHS commissioners ploughed an extra £192,000 into the Tier 3 service, but the additional money would not be available after April, the report said.

New therapies could help around 660 people on the current waiting list.

An NHS Leeds spokesperson said a decision on investment for the service, which works with patients over 12-18 months, would be made before the end of March.

They said: “Many areas across the UK do not have access to a specialist service like the offer we have available in Leeds

“As a healthcare system we are working within challenging financial constraints, and therefore identification of further investment has to be balanced against other statutory duties.

“Weight management services are fragmented across the UK. There is a growing obesity need across the country and within the city, alongside increased patient expectations linked to new obesity medicines currently promoted in the media.”

Council budget cuts had already led to the withdrawal of earlier weight loss intervention as part of Tier 2 of the service, piling further pressure on the NHS.

The spokesperson said patients on the Tier 3 waiting list were guided to other sources of weight-loss support.

Digital treatments, mental health support, more weight-loss education and a review of the referral criteria were among planned improvements.

They added: “We are and will be working to ensure that patients and clinicians are involved in the redesign of this service.”

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