GPs should stop worrying about offending obese patients, says study

Just a 30-second chat about weight can have a major impact for overweight patients


Doctors should not worry about offending obese patients by bringing up their weight, health experts have advised – and a 30-second chat can have a major impact on a patient's future weight.

More than 130 GPs took part in a trial in which they were asked to start a conversation about weight with obese patients who were consulting them about another matter.

They were asked to inform patients that weight management programmes such as Slimming World or Rosemary Conley are available free on the NHS. Others were told to offer general advice on slimming.

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Of patients offered a place on a slimming programme, 77 per cent said yes. Forty per cent went to all the sessions. After a year, the slimming programme group had lost an average of 2.43kg (5.3lbs).

The patients who were offered general advice also lost weight, though not as much – an average of 1.04kg (2.3lbs).

Prof Paul Aveyard, of the University of Oxford, who is also a practicing GP, said doctors don't normally discuss weight with patients unless that is the reason they have come to the surgery.

He told The Guardian: "We weigh people and that's it. Whereas with smoking, every time we see them, once a year, we have to tell them effective ways to stop smoking.

"GPs worry a lot about offending people. It is a very personal thing. Secondly, they do worry that the conversation will go on a long time and not actually lead anywhere."

According to Sky News, 81 per cent of participants across both groups said they found the intervention "appropriate and helpful".

Aveyard added: "Doctors can be concerned about offending their patients by discussing their weight, but evidence from this trial shows that they should be much less worried."

Health experts at World Cancer Research Fund and Public Health England hailed the study, with the latter body saying: "It's important that GPs talk to their overweight and obese patients about losing weight and help them to find further support, as many do already.

"An extra 30 seconds could make all the difference; it doesn't take long and can be raised in a supportive and sensitive manner."

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