Fight the flab for free

OVERWEIGHT or obese people will soon get free membership of slimming classes as part of a pilot programme being rolled out across Weston

OVERWEIGHT or obese people will soon get free membership of slimming classes as part of a pilot programme being rolled out across Weston.North Somerset Primary Care Trust (PCT) is starting a 'slimming referral scheme' where GPs across Weston will be able to send people with weight-related health problems to clubs like Slimming World, Weight Watchers or Rosemary Conley to help them fight the flab.As part of its plans to help people in North Somerset lose weight, the PCT will also employ one full-time and one part-time 'health trainer' who will hand out advice to people in the poorest areas of Weston.The workers will concentrate on helping people living in areas like the Bournville, Coronation and Oldmixon estates and the town centre.Plans are for one of the workers to be based in the For All Healthy Living Centre in Lonsdale Avenue.Associate director of health improvement for North Somerset PCT, Mary Hart, said: "The slimming referral scheme will be for people who are overweight or obese."Any GP in the Weston area will be able to refer them and the PCT will then fund their membership to a slimming club for a period of time. It is unclear how long this will be yet."We will develop specific criteria for who can be referred."The patient will be given the option to join a commercial weight management course like Slimming World, Weight Watchers or Rosemary Conley. We haven't closed our negotiations with the different companies yet though."The funding will last three years and after that period of time we will evaluate the programme to see if it has been effective."Gaining weight and staying overweight is a risk for people with illnesses like diabetes and heart and joint problems."This scheme would probably save the NHS money, but prevention is a difficult thing to prove."Down the line when the funding runs out, we may consider subsidising slimming classes for people who normally pay for weight loss medication."We hope to have the plans for the scheme in place by the autumn."The health trainers will help people in the south and central wards of Weston as they are the areas with the lowest incomes and have higher health-related problems than other areas."Poverty and poor health tend to go hand in hand. Wealthy means healthy."They will give out advice on how to have a healthy lifestyle and information on where to go for exercise classes."We want them to be people from the local community. They will have training on the job but wouldn't need qualifications to start with."There is no confirmed start date for the health trainers yet.

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