Research shows that patients referred to the NHS’ Digital Weight Management Programme lose, on average, over eight pounds in just 12 weeks.

A peer-reviewed paper, published in The Obesity Journal, shows that 63,937 people were referred to the scheme in its first year, with 50 per cent taking up the offer and enrolling in the service.

A total of 14,268 of those then went on to complete the programme (April 2021 to March 2022), with people who completed it losing an impressive 3.9kg or 8.59lbs over 12 weeks.

The 12-week online plan offers diet and physical activity advice, as well as guidance and support to help achieve a healthy lifestyle with boosted participation thanks to easy access on an app or online.

Of the 31,718 people who started the initiative, including those who did not complete, the average weight loss was still 2.2kg or 4.85lbs.

More than a third of the referrals were from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds with the data clearly showing it is helping those from deprived backgrounds, as well as those affected by health inequalities and at a higher risk of adverse outcomes associated with obesity.

Of the total referrals (63,937), 57 per cent were women. Over three-quarters (77 per cent) of those referred were aged 40 to 69.

People are eligible for referral to the 12-week programme if they have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more – lowered to 27.5 for people from Black, Asian and minority ethnicities – and are diagnosed with diabetes, hypertension, or both.

Eligible people are triaged into three intervention levels, with more intensive support targeted at people with higher levels of risk:

  • Level one provides self-guided digital content and optional participation in group support sessions
  • Level two offers an additional 50 minutes of one-to-one coaching
  • Level three increases this to 100 minutes of one-to-one personal coaching

The paper found that incorporating digital delivery weight management services could increase reach and enhance overall effectiveness. As of March 2024, over 358,000 referrals had been made to the NHS Digital Weight Management Programme.

The programme is part of a raft of NHS measures which aim to support people to prevent or reduce incidence of type 2 diabetes and obesity – from the world leading type 2 diabetes prevention programme to the soups and shakes diets, which aim to put type 2 diabetes in remission in people who are newly diagnosed.

Clare Hambling, NHS National clinical director for diabetes and obesity, said, These results are extremely encouraging and show that by combining the effectiveness of existing weight management services with an easy to access service available on your phone or computer, more people can be supported to improve their health.

“While this study looked at the initial 64,000 patients referred in the programme’s first year, we have now seen more than 358,000 referrals by GPs and it’s very encouraging to see so many people benefit from the NHS Digital Weight Management Programme”.

Andrea Leadsom, Public Health Minister, said, “We know that two thirds of adults are overweight or living with obesity, so I am delighted to see how effective the NHS Digital Weight Management Programme is in helping people living with obesity to lose weight and improve their health.

“Services like this one are a vital tool for improving public health and easing pressures on our NHS from complex conditions.”