The NHS and the UK’s social care system could be “bankrupted” by the rising cost of obesity – and “fear of offending people” about the problem is largely to blame.
That is the central finding of new research carried out for councils across Britain.
The Local Government Association (LGA) said council care costs are rising as levels of obesity increase, with more people living longer in ill-health and requiring costly housing adaptations, specialist equipment and personal care.
A new report from the LGA argues that weight-related stigmas need to be tackled to help prevent increasing levels of obesity and severe obesity from having a significant impact on demand and cost pressures in adult social care.
According to the NHS, obesity is estimated to affect around one in every four adults and around one in every five children aged 10 to 11 in the UK. Up to one third of adults are predicted to be obese by 2024.
The LGA research shows that the yearly cost of council-funded community-based social care for a severely obese person is nearly double that for a person with a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI), which equates to an extra £423,000 in annual excess social care costs for a typical council.
Obese people are 25% more likely to be using some form of long-term care in two years than those with a healthy BMI.
Cllr Ian Hudspeth, the Chairman of the LGA’s community wellbeing board, said obesity is a “ticking timebomb” for the nation’s health and is “one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century”, but its impact on adult social care is “largely overlooked”.
He said: “Unless we tackle the stigma and serious challenge of obesity, the costly and debilitating major health conditions it causes could bankrupt adult social care and NHS services.
“Health professionals need to start having frank conversations about people’s weight if it could be an underlying cause of their condition, and routinely record it. Individuals need to take responsibility for their own decisions, and the Government needs to support them to do so.”
The report – “Social Care and Obesity” – warns that councils are concerned that fear of causing offence and a lack of referral services for severely obese people means some health practitioners only record a person’s condition, such as diabetes or stroke, in data and not obesity or BMI even though that is often the underlying problem.
The report is available here.