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Fitbit-style wristbands on the NHS for the obese: Thousands of patients will be given the devices as part of drive to prevent diabetes

  • Pilot scheme costing £1.2million will target 5,000 people at risk of diabetes 
  • NHS England says Fitbit-style wristbands will motivate patients to be healthier
  • But critics have said spending money on the gadgets is 'wholly unnecessary' 
  • Up to 4million people in England have diabetes, with obesity triggering majority 

Thousands of obese people will be given Fitbit-style wristbands as part of an NHS drive to prevent diabetes.

Others will be offered weighing scales and virtual personal trainers who will carry out fitness sessions via their smartphones.

The £1.2million pilot scheme will initially involve 5,000 obese patients who are at high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

But if after 12 months it is deemed a success, it will be rolled out in other areas of the country.

Obese people will be given Fitbit-like wristbands in a move to encourage them to lead healthier lifestyles 

Obese people will be given Fitbit-like wristbands in a move to encourage them to lead healthier lifestyles 

NHS England claims the technology will motivate patients to take more exercise and eat healthily.

But critics said it was ‘wholly unnecessary’ for the Health Service to spend money on the gadgets.

The hi-tech wristbands would normally cost £320 for a year’s contract, although NHS officials claimed they had negotiated a cheaper price. The devices tell patients how many steps they take, calories consumed and burned off and hours slept.

Up to four million patients in England have diabetes but experts say another five million are at risk.

The majority have Type 2 diabetes, which is triggered by obesity.

Patients in the trial will be offered one of five gadgets to keep for a year depending on where they live.

It will initially cover eight regions including west London, north-east London, Somerset, North Yorkshire, Salford and Lancashire.

Patients elsewhere will be offered ‘smart’ weighing scales which display their body fat, and a personal ‘mentor’ to offer health advice.

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said: ‘So much else in our lives is now about online social connection and support, and that now needs to be true, too, for the modern NHS.’

NHS chief executive Simon Stevens said the health service needs to be about online social connection and support

NHS chief executive Simon Stevens said the health service needs to be about online social connection and support

Professor Jonathan Valabhji, national clinical director for obesity and diabetes, said: ‘Tackling obesity and the rising prevalence of Type 2 diabetes are the major public health challenges of our time.

‘We have the potential to establish the effectiveness of digital interventions to do the same.’

Diabetes costs the NHS an estimated £14billion a year and one in seven hospital beds are occupied by someone with the condition.

But Mark Littlewood, head of the Institute of Economic Affairs, said: ‘While education is important in informing people of health risks, pouring millions of pounds into apps and gadgets in order to do this is wholly unnecessary.

‘A cash-strapped NHS is frivolously spending money it doesn’t have on information that is already readily available and accessible. All the while medicines for patients with cancer and serious genetic disorders are being heavily rationed.’

Last week Mr Stevens warned of dire increases to hospital waiting lists unless the Government injected more money in the NHS.

Officials behind the pilot claim it will ultimately save money by preventing thousands of obese patients developing diabetes.

 

Tags Health

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