Over three years the now defunct Oxfordshire Primary Health Care spent about £700,000 on referring people to slimming clubs. But that cost is just a drop in the ocean compared to the cost of illnesses related to obesity. Samantha McGregor looks at how losing those extra pounds can have a significant impact on people’s lives AS a nation we are all getting fatter and that’s a fact.

Almost everyone enjoys a slice of cake, chocolate bar or cream-laden pudding once in a while.

But figures show that the once-in-a-while treat has started to become a permanent fixture.

Ten years ago only about 17 per cent of people living in the South East were considered obese, but by 2011 that figure had risen to more than 22 per cent.

By 2015, the Department of Health predicts illness related to obesity could cost Oxfordshire’s NHS alone more than £92m, based on 2004 prices for costs to the NHS.

In a bid to combat obesity, GPs and health workers are running a string of healthy living initiatives, which include paying for patients to join slimming clubs to help battle the bulge.

Banbury Cake:

  • Kate King

Kate King Oxfordshire County Council’s health improvement principal, said: “A referral to a slimming programme costs about £48 (depending on the programme accessed) per patient.

“As well as providing the person with the support necessary for reducing their weight, it will also help to inspire positive behaviour changes, for the individual and often the whole family, by helping to build understanding and knowledge about healthy diet, cooking fresh food and the benefits of an active lifestyle.

“The financial cost of managing myriad health problems linked to obesity are far greater and, just as importantly, far more damaging to a patient’s confidence, health and overall wellbeing.”


ACCORDING to the National Obesity Observatory, obesity occurs when a person’s energy intake from food and drink is greater than the energy expended by the body’s metabolism and physical activity, and results in the accumulation of excess body fat.

Latest figures from the National Obesity Observatory show in Oxfordshire 20.2 per cent of adults in the county in 2012 were obese.

Obesity figures by region show in 2009/2011 22 per cent of men in the South East were considered obese compared to 23.1 per cent of women.

In 1998/2000, only 17.4 per cent of men, and 17.7 per cent of women were obese.

The highest recorded figures were in the West Midlands where 26.7 per cent of men were obese and 28.1 per cent of women in the North West were obese.

Obesity is not just about being overweight. It can be the underlying cause of a string of health complaints and medical problems. These can include:

  • Joint pressure, especially the knees. There is also an increasing the risk of osteoarthritisHigh blood pressure, which increases the risk for coronary heart disease or a stroke.
  • Increased risk of deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism.
  • Risk of developing type 2 diabetes
  • Increased risk of cancer, including breast and colon cancer
  • Reproductive and urological problems, including incontinence, polycystic ovarian syndrome and infertility in women and erectile dysfunction in men
  • Respiratory problems
  • Liver disease
  • Increase in gastrointestinal disease and gall stones
  • Obesity can also cause psychological and social problems, such as low self-esteem and depression.


SINCE Karen Ritchie, 55, dropped from size 14/16 to 10 she has had her high blood pressure medication reduced to a minimal dose and the pain in her knee has disappeared.

Mrs Ritchie, a personal assistant from Cherwell Drive, Marston, Oxford, was spurred on to join a slimming class by her son.

She said: “He was doing really well and my doctor was telling me to lose weight because of my blood pressure.

“Before I started losing weight I found it very painful on my knee going up and down stairs. Now I can run up and down stairs.”

She said being overweight affected her whole life.

Mrs Ritchie said: “It affects the way you see yourself – you see this large lump in the mirror and it does depress you. It certainly affected my social life. I didn’t want to dress up and go out. Now I buy smaller clothes and I want everyone to see me.”

She has also found herself singing louder in church as she is less breathless.

Banbury Cake:

  • Karen Ritchie before

Mrs Ritchie lost almost 1st 12lbs – her target is two stone. She said: “It has had a huge impact. Because I’m short, 4ft 10, to lose that sort of weight makes a huge difference. I have a lot more energy and just feel so much better about myself. It’s making the first step, once you have done that it’s a whole new social world.”


THEFFANIA Everett, 69, who lives near Kidlington, had a hip replacement operation about three years ago and gained “significant” weight.

She said: “I wasn’t taking a lot of exercise and I was eating all the wrong things.

“I knew I was going to have to have a second hip operation and decided, at the end of 2012, that I was unsatisfied with presenting myself back to the medical team having gained so much.”

Mrs Everett said she went with a friend to a diet class in Kidlington, and hasn’t looked back.

So far she has lost more than 5st and is just 1lb off her target weight, and her second hip operation is scheduled to take place later this month.

Banbury Cake:

  • Theffania Everett

She said: “I haven’t had pressure from the medical profession.

“With hindsight I should have been carrying less weight when I had the first one done.

“The other significant difference for me is last year I got a dog and a dog requires exercise morning and evening.

“Now I’m walking a hour a day.


TWO years ago Gary Bragg’s life changed after he suffered a stroke.

Police had to break into the long distance lorry driver’s home after he failed to turn up at work.

After spending a week at Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital, Mr Bragg, of The Crescent, Bicester, was transferred to a rehabilitation centre in Abingdon for two months.

He believes his weight – then almost 26 stone – caused the stroke.

Banbury Cake:

  • Gary Bragg

He had suffered from hyper-tension and sleep apnoea, which causes people to stop breathing in their sleep. The 50-year-old was referred via the NHS to a slimming club in Bicester.

Mr Bragg, who is 6ft 1in tall, has lost more than 8st and is now a healthier 17st 3lbs. He’s a regular at the gym, does aqua aerobics and eats a healthy diet. He said: “I no longer get sleep apnoea, also I was suspected of having diabetes and I haven’t got that.

“My blood pressure to down to normal. I think it’s down to the slimming. Losing the weight has really turned my life around.”

Banbury Cake:

  • Gary Bragg before

He has been given the all clear by his doctor to return to work and is going through the process of getting his HGV licence back.

“It does make a tremendous difference. I feel infinitely better.”


HAIRDRESSER Claire Ring, 39, has so far lost more than five stone and hopes the weight loss will improve her diabetes.

She was diagnosed with type two diabetes about eight years ago and believes it was partly related to her weight.

But tough words from a diabetes specialist last September prompted Mrs Ring to join a weight loss class in Kidlington to lose pounds.

Banbury Cake:

  • Claire Ring

Since losing weight her medication has been reduced and blood tests have improved.

She said: “I was on an injection and two tablets a day – one tablet has been taken out already. I’m hoping it will reduce even more when I go back. It’s the best thing I have ever followed. Losing weight has made me feel a lot happier about myself and I have more energy.”

She said previously when she went into a restaurant she would look to sit at a point on the table with the most room, now she didn’t need to think about it.

Banbury Cake:

  • Claire Ring before

Mrs Ring, who owns salon Central Hair and Barber, in Oxford Road, Kidlington, said slimming classes had changed the whole family’s food habits, and everyone ate more healthily.

She said: “It has made a huge difference. It has changed everything and my health has improved.”


SLIMMING World consultant Val Neame explained that diet clubs have moved on from the old-style restricted eating regime to a lifestyle change.

She said: “Rather than a diet, it’s a healthy eating plan and we encourage our members to make healthy food and activity choices a way of life rather than thinking of this as a diet.

“Nothing is banned and there are no limits to the amount you can eat.

“Free foods include lean meat, fish and poultry, pasta, rice and potatoes and, of course, fruit and vegetables.

“We advise our members to fill up on these foods which are low in calories and will keep them feeling full, no hunger allowed.

Banbury Cake:

  • Val Neame

“To balance up the calcium we add measured amounts of milk and cheese; to balance up the fibre it’s measured amounts of wholemeal bread, crispbreads or cereal.

“Finally, so as not to deprive themselves our members are encouraged to carefully measure their less healthy foods, ie chocolate and alcohol.

“With these choices control is key.”

For more information call Mrs Neame on 07825 882499.


OXFORDSHIRE County Council takes obesity seriously and has a series of initaitives up and running to support people to improve their lives, and catch people while they are young.

  • Parents can take part in an eight-week parenting class, Let’s Get Healthy with HENRY, Health Exercise and Nutrition for the Really Young, to give them the skills to make lifestyle changes for the whole family.
  •  All children are measured twice during their time in primary school as part of the National Childhood Measurement Programme.
  • Every year children in reception Year (four/five year olds) and Year 6 (10/11 year olds) are weighed and measured.
  • Letters are sent to parents/carers giving information about their child’s weight and include contact details for the school nurse who can help with diet changes.
  • The council works with Oxfordshire Sports Partnership, to promote physical activities.
  • Oxford Health offers a Reach4Health programme for children, families and young people, which gives structured education and support programme.