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From this month, thousands more will also get access to the programme as its early and life-changing success sees it being rolled out in 11 more regions across the country.
Helping people diagnosed with diabetes to lose weight, and make better decisions about their health through the NHS low calorie diet programme, enables them to better control their blood sugar levels – reducing the need for diabetes-related medication and potentially achieving remission of their Type 2 diabetes when their levels return to a healthy range.
Early data from the NHS programme shows participants each lose 7.2kg (over one stone) on average after one month, and 13.4kg (over two stone) after three months.
New data out today also shows that people on the programme who are eating and drinking the low calorie alternatives not only lose weight but keep it off over time. These real-world findings are a significant step forward and come after trials showed that around half of people who had similar weight loss were able to achieve remission of their Type 2 diabetes after one year.
Diabetes is estimated to cost the NHS £10 billion a year, with treatment making up one in 20 prescriptions written by GPs. Projections also show that with the number of people being treated for diabetes continuing to grow – nearly 39,000 more people could suffer a heart attack in 2035, and over 50,000 could experience a stroke.
The year-long programme, which is fully supported and monitored by expert clinicians and coaches throughout, kickstarts weight loss through low calorie, diet replacement products such as shakes and soups for the first three months. After this, a carefully managed plan reintroduces healthy, nutritious food and participants can track their progress through virtual one-to-ones, group sessions and digital support – to help them maintain a healthier weight.
Professor Jonathan Valabhji, NHS national clinical director for diabetes and obesity said: “The fantastic results our participants have achieved through this programme are really encouraging, and show that real-world experience is in line with what we have found in trials. We know this weight loss will go a long way to help people stay well and avoid preventable illness, and for many will also mean they can put Type 2 diabetes into remission.
“This is also the latest example of the NHS rapidly adopting the latest evidence-based treatments to help people with Type 2 diabetes live well. With research showing that obesity causes more severe illness from COVID-19, as well as other serious diseases, there has never been a more important time to lose weight”.
Karen Bradbury, aged 50 from Derbyshire, started the programme around a year ago.
She said: “I have battled with my weight on and off over the years and was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. I was told by my nurse that if my levels hadn’t reduced significantly by my next review, I’d be put on daily medication and I really didn’t want that.
“Since being on the low calorie diet programme, I have felt totally supported by the practitioners and all the tools available. I’ve learnt loads about Type 2 diabetes and how to manage stress and habits with food.
“I feel so much healthier. I have lost 5 stone 3.5 lbs and my blood sugar levels have nearly halved – which meant I didn’t have to start medication! My energy levels have increased substantially, and I am now swimming 3 to 4 times a week and walking every day.
“I used to wake up to 10 times a night to use the bathroom, I was thirsty all the time, exhausted and generally felt unwell. Now I sleep soundly all night and feel less tired during the day. My mental health has also improved. I feel better and I’m living better for me and my children. I’m so grateful that I was offered this opportunity”.
Another successful participant is Nadeem Akhtar, 49 from Sheffield, who has lost more than three stones since starting the programme and has put his Type 2 diabetes into remission.
He said: “I lost my mum to diabetes, which was devastating. It really showed me just how destructive this disease can be and I really didn’t want to go down the same path.
“Being on the plan is the best thing I’ve ever done for myself and my family. It was hard at first, but my health coach was so understanding and really helped me through the difficult times and keep up healthier habits. Now, I feel so much better in myself and I would recommend the programme to anyone”.
The NHS low calorie diet programme has now been extended to a further 11 areas this month:
This latest announcement reflects the continued progress in delivering the NHS Long Term Plan and the NHS’ ability to quickly translate the latest research into practice, supporting those who need it.
Chris Askew OBE, Chief Executive at Diabetes UK, said: “We’re delighted to see the expansion of NHS England’s free weight-loss programme for people living with Type 2 diabetes. Since its launch, this low-calorie diet pilot, inspired by Diabetes UK’s ground-breaking DiRECT trial, has helped thousands of people across England access the support they need to lose weight effectively and potentially put their Type 2 diabetes in remission.
“Remission can be life-changing, offering people a better chance of a healthier future. Today’s announcement means that many more people across England who are living with Type 2 diabetes and overweight will have the chance to get the support they need to go into remission.
“Diabetes UK is also committed to funding research to find other effective ways to put Type 2 into remission, ensuring more people have the chance to go into remission in a way that works best for them”.
The expansion of the NHS low calorie diet programme follows the launch of the NHS Digital Weight Management Programme in July, which is freely available for all adults living with obesity, who also have a diagnosis of diabetes, high blood pressure, or both, to help manage their weight and improve their health. This 12 week programme is available through referral from General Practices and Community Pharmacies.
The NHS Low Calorie Diet programme may be suitable for some adults aged 18-65 years, diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in the last six years and living with overweight or obesity who also meet other eligibility criteria.