Overweight people told to lose 5lb to save NHS £100,000,000

Overweight people are being asked to lose five pounds to save the NHS £100 million and help lower the risk of dying from coronavirus as part of the government’s obesity crackdown.

New measures expected to be announced by Boris Johnson today include a ban on sweet displays at store checkouts and ‘buy one, get one free’ promotions on crisps and chocolate.

A ban on junk food adverts being shown on TV and online before 9pm has already been confirmed.

As part of the ‘Better Health’ plan, restaurants will also have to display the calories contained in items on menus and there will be a consultation into doing the same for alcohol.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock set anybody classed as overweight a goal.

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Writing in The Telegraph he said: ‘If everyone who is overweight lost five pounds it could save the NHS over £100 million over the next five years.

‘And more importantly, given the link between obesity and coronavirus, losing weight could be lifesaving.’

Two-thirds of UK adults are above a healthy weight, according to government data, and one in three children aged 10 to 11 are overweight or obese.

The Prime Minister has already revealed how his own brush with Covid-19, which saw him require intensive care in April, convinced him of the need to tackle Britain’s bulging waistlines.

‘One thing, by the way, that I think did make a difference – for me and for quite a few others – is the issue, frankly, of being overweight,’ he told the BBC on Friday.

The PM said he has lost a stone since his illness and has argued that being ‘fitter and healthier’ and would help people to ‘withstand coronavirus’ and protect the NHS.

The plan being unveiled this week comes as evidence linking excess weight with a higher risk of severe illness from coronavirus has grown.

A Public Health England (PHE) study discovered that being classed as medically obese increased the risk of death from coronavirus by 40%.

As part of the programme, NHS weight loss services are to be expanded, with a 12-week weight loss app set to be unveiled.

GPs will be trained to help patients shed the pounds rather than simply telling them they are too big.

Doctors will also get pay incentives for the number of people referred to slimming clubs and online weight loss programmes, according to the Telegraph.

They will also be encouraged to prescribe bike rides, with patients in pilot areas to be given access to bikes.

The Prime Minister said: ‘Losing weight is hard but with some small changes we can all feel fitter and healthier.

‘If we all do our bit, we can reduce our health risks and protect ourselves against coronavirus – as well as taking pressure off the NHS.’

The highly interventionist approach marks a U-turn for Mr Johnson, who until recently has been a vocal opponent of ‘sin taxes’ and perceived it to be ‘nannying’ by the state.

He looks to have dropped his libertarian stance for a plan designed to save the NHS time and money while also helping to reduce the number of Covid-19 deaths in a possible second wave of infections.

The Obesity Health Alliance, a coalition of more than 40 leading health organisations, medical royal colleges and campaign groups, praised the targeting of promotional offers.

But UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls criticised the timing of the extra impositions on restaurants and pubs.

‘As we focus on securing jobs and helping the economy and communities to recover, a raft of costs and regulatory burdens would be a slap in the face,’ she said.

Labour shadow health minister Alex Norris criticised the three consultations announced in the strategy, which could delay the measures being introduced.

He said: ‘We’ve had big promises before from Tory ministers on banning junk food advertising only for measures to be kicked into the long grass of consultation.

‘But an effective obesity strategy needs action, not consultation.’

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