Weight-loss jabs are among a range of measures that will soon be made available by the NHS via prescription on apps in an attempt to tackle obesity, as demand for traditional face-to-face services surges.
The four programmes – Liva, Oviva, Roczen and Second Nature – can be downloaded via an app or computer, allowing specialists to provide care online. They have been recommended for use by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) in new draft guidance and will bring together various specialists, including those providing psychological support.
Mark Chapman, interim director of medical technology and digital evaluation at Nice, said: “Traditional face-to-face services treating people living with obesity are unable to keep up with demand.
“Waiting lists are long, some areas don’t have a service, and patients need a solution.
“These four platforms could provide an option to accessing weight management support to those people who live in an area with no specialist weight management services or for those who are on a waiting list and are happy to be treated safely outside a hospital setting.”
Nice said patients will have a clinical assessment before starting treatment and those eligible will have at least one weight-related condition, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, along with a BMI of 35 or over.
Some of the platforms also have the ability to prescribe weight-loss jabs such as semaglutide or liraglutide – sold as Wegovy and Saxenda respectively – alongside a reduced calorie diet and exercise.
It comes after a five-year study by pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk found Wegovy could reduce the risk of heart attack or strokes in obese patients with cardiovascular disease by 20%.
Wegovy is yet to launch in the UK, but was recommended “as an option for weight management” for certain patients by Nice in March.
A Health Survey for England published by NHS Digital in 2021 claimed 25.9% of adults in England were obese, while a further 37.9% were overweight.
Nice said up to 48,000 people would be able to access the new virtual services and if all of those eligible enrolled it could save 145,000 hours of clinician time.
The health secretary, Steve Barclay, said “technology is transforming healthcare” and helping the NHS cut waiting times, which have reached a record 7.6 million.
He added: “The use of apps in weight management services will improve access to support that, alongside life-changing drugs, can help tackle obesity – which costs the NHS billions every year and is the second biggest cause of cancer.
“The newest obesity medicines have the potential to help patients lose significant amounts of weight and reduce related conditions, but it’s vital they are used alongside diet, physical activity and wider behavioural support to help stop people regaining weight.”