NHS spending on obesity-related conditions has soared to more than £1bn a year – more than is spent providing hip operations for the elderly, according to official figures.
Experts have warned that the UK’s bulging waistlines and sedentary habits are fuelling an “explosion” in lifestyle diseases, which are putting immense pressure on the NHS, while obesity campaigners have said “horrendous” couch potato lifestyles are crippling the health service.
The figures show that the number of drugs given out for diabetes has almost doubled in a decade. In addition, spending on diabetes treatment, weightloss drugs and indigestion remedies has now reached £1.027 billion – a 65% increase in 10 years.
By comparison, the NHS spends approximately £900 million a year on hip operations.
The NHS Digital figures reveal 52 million prescriptions were issued last year alone for diabetes – a rise of 81% in a decade. Diabetes is a condition that’s largely driven by obesity, with around 85% of Type 2 diabetes cases occurring as a result of excess weight.
Prescribing of statins to protect against heart disease has risen almost as sharply, with a 69% rise in the numbers being handed out by GPs.
Last year, 71 million prescriptions were issued for the cholesterol-busting drugs – an increase from 42 million prescriptions in 2006, the figures show.
‘No sign of slowing down’
Diabetes UK estimates that almost 12 million people across the UK are at risk of developing diabetes as a result of their weight or sedentary habits.
Dan Howarth, head of care at Diabetes UK, said: “The last 10 years have seen an explosion in the number of people being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes – a trend that shows no sign of slowing down.
“It is a condition that is costing the NHS £11 billion every year and is the underlying cause of most amputations, blindness and kidney disease.”
Tam Fry, chairman of the National Obesity Forum, said it was “lunacy” that so much money is being spent treating conditions that could be avoided with simple lifestyle changes.
He said too many people were taking statins when they would be better off improving their lifestyles.
Under NHS guidelines, which suggest statins should be taken by most men over 60 and women over 65, around 17.5 million people in England are recommended to take the cholesterol-lowering medications.
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