Six in 10 GPs don’t measure abdominal obesity

Less than a quarter of patients at risk from obesity have had their waistlines measured by a GP or nurse, new research by sanofi-aventis has revealed.

Obesity is a key contributor to heart disease and type 2 diabetes, and it affects more than one in five adults in the UK, equating to over 12 million people. And yet, a new survey - Shaping the Nation 2007 - funded by sanofi-aventis and backed by the World Heart Federation, has revealed that only four in 10 GPs routinely measure abdominal obesity, even though it is believed to be a better indicator of obesity than the more popular body mass index benchmark.

Obesity and its associated problems already cost the UK economy a whopping £7.4 billion per year, with the direct annual cost to the National Health Service of treating diseases attributable to obesity and being overweight estimated at £3.2 billion. But the recent Wanless report warned that rates of the condition are expected to continue to rise significantly, adding a further strain to the Service’s already stretched resources.

The survey’s findings have ignited renewed calls for the new GP contract to be reformed so that obesity is better managed within primary care. “We are calling for the GMS contract to be changed so primary care teams are encouraged to better identify and manage obese patients at risk of future disease,” explained Dr David Haslam, clinical director of the National Obesity Forum.

New indicators

He told PharmaTimes UK News that, currently, the Quality and Outcomes Framework – an annual reward and incentive scheme for GPs – awards just three points for measuring BMI in patients with diabetes and eight for maintaining a register of patients that have a BMI of over 30. What he would like to see included in QOF points for obesity is the measurement of waist circumference, identifying children at risk and cardiovascular risk screening, he explained.

“Obesity already costs the NHS billions of pounds every year and we need to improve the way we treat it, otherwise it will place an even greater burden on the health service in years to come,” he stressed.

The QOF – which covers 19 clinical therapy areas – is currently being renegotiated to include more diseases, and is due to be launched in April next year.

GPs hitting QOF targets

Meanwhile, family doctors in England’s GP practices have once again demonstrated a high standard of patient care, achieving 95.5% of the 1,000 points available in the current QOF for the year 2006/7.

This figure compares to an average achievement of 96.2% in 2005/6 and 91.3% in 2004/5. In 2006/7, however, the maximum score of 1,000 points was achieved by 427 practices (5.1%), down from 9.7% of practices last year.

Practices had to achieve quality indicators in new clinical areas and higher levels of achievement in existing areas to maintain the same number of points as last year.