High-profile study shows effectiveness of GPs talking about weight and referring to Slimming World

A study published in leading medical journal, The Lancet, has found that patients are motivated to lose weight by conversations with their GP and, if those conversations are used to direct them to effective weight management services such as Slimming World, then patients lose ‘substantially more’ weight. 

The study, led by the University of Oxford, looked at the impact of GPs instigating 30-second conversations with patients about their weight. It found that while brief conversations about weight were welcomed by patients and increased the likelihood of patients taking action, using those conversations to direct patients to effective support like Slimming World increased the proportion taking effective action five-fold. 

The findings are significant because research shows that in most consultations, health professionals do not discuss weight with patients who have an obese BMI, reporting lack of time and fear of causing  offence among the key reasons for not raising the issue. 

However, most patients (81.3%) said they found the conversation with their GP both helpful and appropriate, with only 0.2% saying they found it inappropriate or unhelpful. And while simply having the conversation with their GP led to a weight loss of 1.04kg at 12 months, people who were offered referral to groups like Slimming World lost 2.43kg on average and those that took up the referral ‘lost substantially more’*.

Slimming World pioneered the first ever NHS weight management referral programme in 2001 and Slimming World on Referral is now available in around 70 areas of the UK. Under the scheme, GPs and other health professionals can refer patients whose weight is affecting their health to Slimming World for regular, convenient, effective and cost-effective support. In their guidance for lifestyle-based weight management services, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recognises Slimming World as an organisation with evidence that it is effective.


Carolyn Pallister, Public Health Manager
Ensuring health professionals have the knowledge to signpost to proven, effective weight loss support should be at the top of the public health agenda.
Carolyn Pallister, Public Health Manager

Carolyn Pallister, Public Health Manager for Slimming World, said: “This study shows that equipping health professionals with the skills to raise the issue of weight in a sensitive and skilled way and ensuring they have the knowledge to signpost to proven, effective weight loss support like Slimming World should be at the very top of the public health agenda. 

“For some time we have been calling for the introduction of a national standard for the training of health professionals to ensure that they are fully equipped to raise the issue of weight and signpost effectively.

“This new study shows once again that referral to Slimming World is effective and that’s because of the support members get in our groups to lose weight effectively without ever feeling hungry or deprived and make long-term changes to their eating and activity habits. 

“This study shows that a very brief intervention where health professionals raise the issue of weight and signpost to effective support would help patients lose weight, improve health and quality of life and also save the health service money through lower incidence of heart disease and diabetes.” 

Professor Paul Aveyard, from the University of Oxford who was the lead author of the study and is also a practising GP, said: “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.

“Our study found that a brief, 30 second conversation, followed by help booking the first appointment onto a community weight loss programme, leads to weight loss and is welcomed by patients. On average, people consult their doctor five times a year meaning there is huge opportunity to deliver this low cost intervention on a large scale.”

* The 2.43kg average is for people who were offered referral to Slimming World or Rosemary Conley and so includes people who did not take up the referral offer. The paper reveals that patients who accepted the referral ‘lost substantially more weight’.

Read the full Lancet study here: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(16)31893-1/fulltext

Notes to Editors

Slimming World was founded by Margaret Miles-Bramwell (OBE, FRSA) in 1969. There are now more than 18,000 groups held weekly across the UK and Republic of Ireland via a network of 4,000 community-based Slimming World Consultants, who receive specific training in the role of diet and physical activity in weight management, as well as sophisticated behaviour-change techniques.

Slimming World’s healthy eating plan, Food Optimising, is based on the science of satiety and energy density. Our phased activity programme, Body Magic, eases members into activity until it becomes an intrinsic part of their daily routine. The principles behind Slimming World’s philosophy are based on a deep understanding of the challenges faced by overweight people and a recognition that those who struggle with weight carry a double burden, the weight itself and a burden of guilt and shame about their weight. Slimming World’s programme integrates practical, up-to-date advice with a highly developed support system based on care and compassion, and Consultant training focuses on facilitating behaviour change in a warm and friendly group environment. Consultant training is delivered through the Slimming World Academy. Slimming World also invests in a comprehensive research programme to develop its support for long-term weight management. The group support provided by Slimming World is recognised as effective by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) and the NHS.

For more information about Slimming World’s approach visit www.slimmingworld.co.uk or call 0344 897 8000.

For the Press Office please email public.relations@slimmingworld.co.uk