With 29 per cent of adults in England now classed as obese – meaning a body mass index over 30 – it could see 12 million people offered help to shed excess weight.
Tam Fry, from the National Obesity Forum, said the move was “a step in the right direction”, although he urged GPs to talk to patients about losing weight before they became obese.
In total, 36 per cent of UK adults are overweight, in addition to the 29 per cent who are obese.
“The sooner GPs intervene the better,” said Mr Fry. “Ideally, we need GPs to be sending people on for help before they become obese, when their chances of success are higher.”
However, GPs claim the idea is unworkable, with too few classes currently available.
Kent GP Dr Stephanie de Giorgio told Pulse, a monthly news-based magazine for GPs: “There aren’t the services to send them to, so that’s not possible without massive investment when you think of the number of patients this is going to involve.
“Unless significant input is put into effective weight management – which includes psychology, proper nutritional information, obesity medicine and bariatric surgery – then there is really very little point in doing any of this.”
Sir Simon Stevens, the chief executive of the NHS, has also called for the UK to do more to tackle obesity following research indicating that those who are obese are twice as likely to die from coronavirus.
The UK – the second fattest nation in Europe after Malta – has so far recorded the third highest number of deaths during the pandemic.