EMBARGO: For Immediate Release
There were a record 1.2 million obesity-related admissions to hospital last year, new NHS figures highlighted by the Liberal Democrats have revealed.
This is up 8% on the previous year, and almost double the 711,000 obesity-related hospital admissions five years ago (2016-17). Obesity was the main cause for 8,716 hospital admissions in 2022/23, up 13% on the previous year.
The Liberal Democrats said it shows the government is failing abysmally on obesity, after plans to tackle the issue were significantly weakened and delayed. The party is calling for an anti-obesity strategy including bringing forward plans to ban junk-food advertising until after 9pm, introducing higher food standards in schools and hospitals, as well as launching a nation-wide public health campaign to get the country moving, encouraging people to exercise and empower them to improve their health
The Liberal Democrats are also calling for greater investment in public health grants for local councils after years of cuts, with extra funds set aside for local communities experiencing the worst health inequalities. These grants pay for local initiatives to tackle public health issues including obesity, smoking, drugs and alcohol.
The data also reveals a stark postcode lottery, with the rate of hospital admissions linked to obesity over ten times higher in some areas than others. Overall, the rate of hospital-related admissions was twice as high in the most deprived areas compared to the least deprived ones.
Luton had the worst rate in the country with 4,880 obesity-related hospital admissions per 100,000 people. This was followed by Gloucestershire (4,865), Southampton (4,781) and Salford (4,671), which all had more than double the national rate of 2,225 per 100,000 population. Bracknell Forest had just 420 obesity-related hospital admissions per 100,000 people, less than a tenth of the rate in Luton.
A recent report found the cost to the NHS of obesity-related illness is now estimated at £19.2 billion a year.
Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader and Health Spokesperson Daisy Cooper MP said:
“The UK should be one of the healthiest countries in the world but under this Conservative government things have gone from bad to worse.
“Our most deprived communities are being hit hardest by the obesity epidemic, often unable to afford healthy food or access health advice.
“This Conservative government has slashed support for farmers and made healthy, home-grown food out of reach for far too many people. To make matters worse, people are struggling to see a GP when they need to, meaning health conditions deteriorate instead of being diagnosed and treated early.
“Ministers have squandered numerous opportunities to make the UK a healthier place to live, instead choosing to kick the can down the road time and again.
“All this is having a huge impact on people’s well-being, not to mention on our NHS and economy. Investing in improving public health would not only reduce pressure on the NHS, it would help get more people back to work and boost our economy.
“We need to empower people by making sure healthy food is affordable and accessible, and give communities an active role in designing public health programmes that work for their area.”
Notes to Editor
Story first reported on the front page of The Times here.
NHS Digital data is available here.
A breakdown by local authority is available here
Report on £19.2bn cost of obesity to the NHS previously covered by The Times here