King’s College Hospital is one of 15 NHS trusts in England that are preparing to pilot a new specialist clinic, which will offer tailored treatment and support to obese children and young people.
Obesity can increase the likelihood of a child developing serious health issues such as Type 2 diabetes, liver conditions and early heart disease. In severe cases, children can also develop difficulties such as breathing problems and mental health problems, which can dramatically impact their quality of life.
In England, the number of children living with obesity doubles from the start of primary school to the end of primary school – with the latest data showing that one fifth of children aged 10 to 11 are obese in England.
The rollout of the pilot delivers on the NHS Long Term Plan ambition to treat children and young people for severe complications related to their obesity and prevent the need for more invasive treatment in adulthood.
Children across South East London, aged between two and 18 and experiencing health complications related to severe obesity, will be supported to achieve a healthier weight through the new service at King’s - that will operate in partnership with Bart’s Health NHS Trust.
The children and young people will have access to a full clinical team, including support from dietitians, psychologists and paediatricians, to identify the factors that led to their obesity and ensure their health needs are met. King’s patients will also receive tailored care packages developed with their family, which will include diet plans and mental health support.
King’s patient, Lusanda - aged 17 - was severely obese, taking medication to control his high blood sugar levels and struggling with liver problems. In 2019, Lusanda was referred to the Surgical Weight Management service at King’s College Hospital where a team of dieticians worked with him and his family, enabling him to lose 40kg (six stone) without surgery.
Lusanda’s mother, Hettie Sizibo, said: “Lusanda has autism and some learning difficulties, which means he doesn’t understand when he is hungry or full, and he puts on weight very easily. He also doesn’t like trying new foods, so it had always been a struggle to give him healthy meals.
“The support we received from the dietician at King’s College Hospital helped us keep a food routine and control his calories. His brothers and sisters helped too – they didn’t eat in front of him, which stopped arguments about snacks. I was able to advise his school to stick to a strict eating plan so that he wasn’t getting more food than necessary.”
Hettie added: “The difference has been incredible. As well as the weight loss, his liver has improved and his blood sugar levels are also better so he doesn’t have to take medication for this anymore.”
Dr Martha Ford-Adams, Consultant Paediatrician and Lead for Paediatric Diabetes and Weight Management at King’s College Hospital, said: “This welcome investment for the NHS will enable staff at King’s to provide children and young people with obesity a tailored programme to help address their weight and its associated effects on their physical and mental health.
“Early action can prevent our young patients from enduring long-term health problems such as Type 2 diabetes, heart attacks and even cancer, which is better for patients, their families and the NHS.”