VERY overweight patients needing non-urgent surgery are to be offered free pound-shedding classes.
Under the new scheme those with a BMI over 35 will be able to get 12 free sessions at WeightWatchers or Slimming World from their GP.
Each 12-week programme will cost the NHS £70 but if people want to continue beyond this they will have to pick up the bill themselves.
The move follows the introduction of a new Hertfordshire-wide policy earlier this year that meant non-urgent operations were refused for the overweight and smokers who did not try to kick the habit.
Dr Nicholas Small, chairman of Herts Valleys Clincial Commissioning Group, said: “We’re really pleased to be in a position to offer additional support, over and above that already on offer from GP surgeries.
“We are doing this by funding a 12-week course to kick-start weight loss in patients with a body mass index in excess of 35 who require routine, non-urgent surgery.
“Patients eligible to join the pilot will receive a referral from their GP along with information and help to make a decision about which of the two services is the best one for them.
“They will then be able to join a class that is convenient to where they live or work and that fits in around existing commitments.
“We know that in most cases, people who are at a healthy weight have better outcomes from surgery than those who are not.
“This programme is one of the things that GPs are doing to help improve individual and public health.”
The initiative will be run as a pilot programme for nine months and then evaluated.
Last year the county’s health bosses announced they would be cutting their budget by £276 million over a four-year period.
Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group – which includes GPs from Dacorum, St Albans, Three Rivers and Watford – will take over responsibility for purchasing health services from Herts Primary Care Trust next April.