Hundreds of thousands of people will receive NHS help to battle obesity and type II diabetes under radical action set out by Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England.

To tackle the rise, very low calorie diets that have been shown to put type II diabetes into remission in those recently diagnosed with the condition will be trialled as part of the NHS long term plan, which will increase the focus on prevention as well as treatment.

Patients will be prescribed a liquid diet of just over 800 calories a day for three months and then a period of follow up support to help achieve remission of their type II diabetes.

This approach will initially be piloted in up to 5,000 people following the Diabetes UK-funded DiRECT trial, where almost half of those who went on a very low calorie diet achieved remission of their type II diabetes after one year. A quarter of participants achieved a staggering 15kg or more weight loss, and of these, 86% put their type II diabetes into remission.

The nine-month programme helps people to achieve a healthy weight, improve overall nutrition and increase physical levels of activity.

The moves will not just improve the health of patients but also save the NHS money that can be reinvested in frontline care. Currently, the health service in England spends around 10% of its budget on treating diabetes.

“The NHS is now going to be ramping up practical action to support hundreds of thousands people avoid obesity-induced heart attacks, strokes, cancers and type II diabetes. The NHS Long Term Plan is going to give people the power and the support to take control of their own lifestyles – so that they can help themselves while also helping the NHS,” Stevens said.

“Because what’s good for our waistlines is also good for our wallets, given the huge costs to all of us as taxpayers from these largely preventable illnesses. However this isn’t a battle that the NHS can win on its own. The NHS pound will go further if the food industry also takes action to cut junk calories and added sugar and salt from processed food, TV suppers and fast food takeaways.”

Professor Roy Taylor, co-chief investigator of the DiRECT study, added: “This is a hugely important step forward for the NHS, allowing people with type II diabetes to return to full health. This approach has gradually been taken up by doctors, nurses and dieticians, but now practical support will be provided.”

Recent projections also show that the growing number of people with diabetes could result in nearly 39,000 people living with diabetes suffering a heart attack in 2035 and over 50,000 people suffering a stroke, highlighting the need for action.

The drive comes just one week after the news that nearly 7,000 children and young adults in England and Wales now have type II diabetes. The disease is receiving a lot of attention recently, with Novo Nordisk also launching a campaign to raise awareness of the risk of heart attacks and strokes in people living with the condition.