Bristol childhood obesity clinic forms blueprint for national NHS pilot

  • 16 November 2021

Children and young people with severe obesity will receive intensive support with a pilot of 15 new specialist NHS services based on a clinic in Bristol.

The Care of Childhood Obesity (CoCO) clinic at the Bristol Royal Hospital for Children has been supporting children in the area since the early 2000s. It is led by clinicians and researchers from University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust, the National Institute for Health Research Bristol Biomedical Research Centre (NIHR Bristol BRC) and the University of Bristol.

CoCO has treated thousands of children from across the South West since its launch and delivers a multi-system approach to treatment that combines nutritional advice, psychological and social support with new medical interventions.

In England, the number of children living with obesity doubles from the start of primary school to the end of primary school – with latest data showing that one fifth of children aged 10-11 in England live with obesity.

One thousand children a year, aged between two and 18 and experiencing health complications related to severe obesity such as Type 2 diabetes, liver disease and abnormal sleep, will be supported to lose weight through the new services.

Children will also receive specialist treatment and tailored care packages developed with their family, which could include diet plans, mental health treatment and coaching.

Tailored interventions will be provided with a full clinical team, including support from dietitians, psychologists, specialist nurses, social workers, youth workers and a paediatrician to ensure all health needs of each child are met.

As well as providing expert treatment, the services will identify the factors causing obesity in children, considering their mental and physical health.

Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of the NHS in England said:

“The pandemic has shone a harsh light on obesity – with many vulnerable young people struggling with weight gain during the pandemic.

“Left unchecked, obesity can have other very serious consequences, ranging from diabetes to cancer.

“This early intervention scheme aims to prevent children and young people enduring a lifetime of ill-health.

“The NHS Long Term Plan committed to take more action to help children and young people with their physical and mental health and these new services are a landmark moment in efforts to help them lead longer, healthier and happier lives.”

Professor Julian Hamilton-Shield, Professor of Diabetes and Metabolic Endocrinology at the Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, NIHR Bristol BRC and the University of Bristol, said:

“Many children and young people with excess weight experience significant complications that can make them very unwell.

“Using a team of experts from many disciplines, including specialist dieticians, social support workers, and mental health professionals, we can pinpoint the exact causes of weight gain and create tailored treatment plans for each child to help accelerate weight loss and address the complications caused.

“The creation of these 15 new clinics across the country demonstrate the NHS’s commitment to help tackle obesity and provide more local access to specialist weight management support for children in England.”

Find out more about research at the Care of Childhood Obesity (CoCO) clinic (PDF)