Is Slimming World on Referral an effective option to help people with learning difficulties manage their weight?

BACKGROUND: Since piloting the Slimming World on Referral service in 2001 (Lavin et al., 2006), the scheme has been made available nationally. This subsidised partnership scheme enables primary care to refer patients to a local Slimming World group for weekly weight management at no cost to the patient themselves. To date, over 30 schemes have been set up with the NHS, mainly focusing on people with general medical conditions. Obesity levels are greater in adults with learning difficulties than in the general population and have been shown to contribute to reduced life expectancy and increased health needs (Royal College of Nursing, 2006). In 2007, a Primary Care Trust (PCT) & Slimming World trialled the use of Slimming World on Referral, specifically for members with learning difficulties. This study aimed to evaluate its feasibility. METHODS: Twenty members were referred to a specially set up Slimming World group and given the opportunity to attend free of charge for 24 weeks. The group was run by a local Slimming World consultant with support from Berkshire East PCT’s learning difficulties care staff. A simplified version of Slimming World’s healthy eating plan was promoted. Visuals were used to encourage the intake of low energy dense foods and healthier meal options, for instance, options for a healthy lunch box. Weight change, body mass index (BMI) change and rates of attendance were analysed using weekly weight records. Data were analysed by t-tests (paired and unpaired) using SPSS version 11.

RESULTS: Average attendance was 19 weeks (2.9). Average percentage weight change was -4.4% (3.7) and 11 out of the 20 (55%) participants lost 5% or more of their body weight within the 24 weeks. Table 1 Effect of attendance at Slimming World group on weight and BMI. Baseline, mean (SD)Follow up, mean (SD)P valueWeight (kg)96.0 (12.1)91.7 (12.8)<0.001BMI (kg m(-2))36.7 (6.9)35.1 (7.0)<0.001 For those who attended at least 20 of the 24 sessions (n = 12/60%), data improved further: mean BMI change -1.9 kg m(-2) (1.6, P = 0.002), weight change -5.4 kg (4.3, P = 0.002), percentage weight change -5.8% (4.5, P = 0.002).

DISCUSSION: It has previously been shown that referral partnership between the NHS and Slimming World offers a practical weight management option in terms of efficacy, attrition and cost (Lavin et al., 2006). This audit data shows that the referral service can be used to achieve clinically effective weight losses in a specific patient group which has high levels of obesity.

CONCLUSION: Slimming World on Referral offers a feasible option to help adults with learning difficulties manage their weight. References Lavin, J.H., Avery, A., Whitehead, S.M., Rees, E., Parsons, J., Bagnall, T., Barth, J.H. & Ruxton, C.H.S. (2006)