The first sites to take part in the national diabetes prevention programme are gearing up to start taking referrals within a few weeks.

NHS England said the first wave will see thousands of people at high risk of type 2 diabetes in the ten areas referred into the programme, with up to 100,000 people a year benefitting by 2020.

Healthier You: the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme - a joint commitment from NHS England, Public Health England and Diabetes UK - intends to single out people at risk and refer them into an evidence-based behavioural intervention to help stave off the disease.

The scheme will initially roll out to 27 areas this year in 2016 covering 26 million people, around half of the population, and making up to 40,000 referrals in 2016. All areas are expected to be covered by 2020.

Those put into the programme will get tailored, personalised help to reduce their risk of developing the condition, including education on healthy eating and lifestyle, weight-loss assistance, and bespoke physical exercise programmes.

The first 10 sites to provide the service are Leeds, Cumbria, Lincolnshire, Birmingham, East Midlands, Herefordshire, Berkshire, South London, East London and Durham.

Around 2.6 million people in England have with type II diabetes and there are around 200,000 new diagnoses every year, despite the condition being largely preventable through lifestyle changes.

Aside from the health benefit, it is hoped the scheme could save the NHS millions of pounds, given that diabetes currently costs the NHS £1.5 million an hour, and 80 percent of this is for treating largely preventable complications such as amputation, blindness, kidney failure and stroke.