Up to 5,000 type 2 diabetes patients will be prescribed a liquid diet of just over 800 calories a day for three months to see if it puts them into remission, NHS England has announced.
The pilot will be run as part of the national diabetes prevention programme, which allows primary care to refer patients for support to help them lose weight, eat better and take up more exercise, and forms part of the long-awaited NHS long-term plan.
The pilot is set to be launched next year, initially including around 5,000 people. This follows a Diabetes UK trial in which almost half of participants who undertook a very low calorie diet achieved remission of their type 2 diabetes after one year, with a quarter dropping 15kg or more.
Diabetes UK chief executive Chris Askew said: ‘The first year results of Diabetes UK DiRECT study showed that – for some people with type 2 diabetes – an intensive, low-calorie weight loss programme delivered with ongoing support through primary care could put their condition into remission.
‘While this groundbreaking study continues to explore how long-lasting these benefits are, we are delighted that NHS England have been inspired by this work to pilot a type 2 remission programme through the NHS.’
NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said: ‘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 2 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.’
But he added that ‘this isn’t a battle that the NHS can win on its own’ and called on the food industry to ‘take action to cut junk calories and added sugar and salt from processed food, TV suppers and fast food takeaways’.
NHS England has also said that the national diabetes prevention programme will be doubled in size, to support around 200,000 people at risk of developing type 2 diabetes and help them lose weight.
They said that this comes after the programme ‘proved even more successful than planned with patients losing on average 1kg more than expected’.
The scheme, first launched in 2016, was designed to delay or stop the onset of diabetes by providing lifestyle interventions.
Online versions of the programme will also be provided for patients who find it difficult to attend sessions because of work or family commitments, the announcement added.