According to NHS England more than half of patients routinely attending sessions offered as part of its diabetes prevention programme have achieved weight losss equivalent to nearly 15 double cheeseburgers.

To date well over 50 percent of people have completed the flagship scheme, attending at least eight support sessions over a nine-month period, which helped them to lose an average of 3.3kg.

When excluding those who started the programme with normal weight and BMI but with other health and lifestyle risks linked with developing Type II diabetes, this increased to 3.7kg.

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

Also, the NHS is now spending more than £6 billion every year on treating the disease and its complications, with around 80 percent going treating largely preventable complications such as amputation, blindness, kidney failure and stroke.

“Type II diabetes is heavily linked to obesity and if those on our programme continue to lose weight, as this snapshot suggests, then it is a step in the right direction and this programme can be an effective part of the solution,” said Professor Jonathan Valabhji, National Clinical Director for Diabetes and Obesity, at NHS England.

“The NHS is already leading the way in the battle against the obesity crisis by slashing the sale of sugary drinks and super-sized snacks in hospitals, and the results now coming out of our diabetes prevention programme are also positive,” said Simon Stevens, NHS England’s chief executive, addressing Diabetes UK’s Professional Conference.

“Obesity is the new smoking and the scale of our response needs to match the scale of the crisis.”

Three years after the diabetes prevention programme was first announced, them scheme is now “on the verge of achieving complete national coverage”, with more that 154,000 people referred and 66,000 taking places in the last 21 months of roll-out.