Get Paid to Lose Weight
By WLR's Jenny Fletcher
Do you like the sound of being paid to lose those excess pounds? A new NHS weight loss scheme does just that - patients get paid up to £1800 to lose weight.
Run by the external firm Weight Wins, these NHS weight loss schemes offer a variety of financial incentives for losing the weight. Anything from £200 for losing two stone in five months, to almost £1800 for dropping 10 stone in 21 months!
Weight Wins are already offering a diet programme to which anyone can sign up, for a monthly fee, and be rewarded for each pound they lose. However, if they fail to register a loss, they could end up just losing pounds from their pockets. More than 600 people in Britain have taken part in these schemes, and research shows that the financial incentive is far more attractive to men than women, who are more motivated by the thought of getting into that summer holiday bikini!
Where is the Scheme Being Trialled?
The scheme is currently being piloted in the Eastern and Coastal Kent Primary Care Trust, however its apparent success means it could soon be rolled out across the country. The Primary Care Trust pays £185 for every person who enrols in the scheme, and all pay outs are covered by Weight Wins.
However, if weight loss targets are not met, slimmers do not receive their financial rewards. Patients must also show that they can maintain their new weight and not put the pounds back on!
The scheme is aimed at those who are overweight, rather than those who are obese or those who would benefit from surgery. There are around 400 places on the programme which is heavily over subscribed with around 2000 applicants! This radical scheme is a bid to save the NHS money on weight related surgery and obesity-related diseases in the long-run, which is currently costing the NHS billions.
Will the NHS Weight Loss Scheme Work?
Similar trials have already been carried out in the USA. The Journal of the American Medical Association carried out a 16-week trial to see whether those who were motivated by a financial incentive were more likely to lose the weight. Findings showed that those groups motivated by the prospect of a financial reward were significantly more successful than the control group who were offered no monetary reward.
Dietitian Lyndel Costain BSc RD suggests that ‘whilst this scheme did show a positive outcome in the short-term, who knows how effective it would be in 2-5 years time, for example. Like all weight loss approaches, there will be a subset for whom this works well, but not for all or even the majority. Furthermore, we have to question whether people would be making the mindset changes required for long-term weight management or if they are just focusing on short-term rewards.’
Fast Food vs. Financial Reward
However, recent publicity has seen this scheme come under heavy fire due to the increase in hospitals renting out space to fast food restaurants. Pop to your local NHS Hospital and you might well be able to pick-up a Burger King along with your prescription!
40 out of the UK’s 170 NHS Trusts have rented space to fast food restaurants with four more soon to follow. Critics say this runs contrary to bids to tackle the ever rising presence of obesity and obesity-related diseases in the UK. Furthermore, fast food is full of fat and salt, and something that healthy slimmers tend to avoid.
But whilst photos appear of a woman on a drip ordering at a fast food counter in Cambridge’s Addenbrookes Hospital, the National Obesity Forum suggest that the message seems to be that the NHS is “effectively endorsing” fast food, not weight loss.
It is certainly true that there is a huge disparity between the constant message for us to shape up and lose the pounds and the introduction of unhealthy eateries in the very places that monitor our health.
Despite this, Lyndel Costain suggests that a financial reward scheme ‘isn’t an approach that is going to go away any time soon.’