Yesterday I took Manor-based Shine Health Academy to meet with the Minister for Public Health, Jo Churchill MP (see more in The Star). I’ve been working with Shine for a few years, trying to get the NHS to commission services for severely obese children and young people, and in July 2018 I brought a group of Shine’s members to Westminster to present their experiences to MPs. They met members of the Health Select Committee, which subsequently called for “effective help through a multidisciplinary, family-centric approach”.

Led by an inspirational former nurse, Kath Sharman, Shine provide this sort of service, helping children and young people deal with all the issues that have led to their weight problems and building their self-esteem through a holistic approach with the whole family which draws together different types of support. But these ‘Tier 3 services’ are not generally provided for children by the NHS, leaving those affected dependent on charitably-funded groups like Shine.

Meeting the Minister wasn’t just about telling her about Shine’s great work, but to highlight the lack of specialist support services for around the country. While there has been a lot of work on prevention, which is important, there is hardly any support for the rapidly increasing number of severely obese children who need help. Sheffield is one of only three places in the country where support is available through Shine which receives referrals from hospitals and GPs, but no NHS funding.

In our meeting, at which we were joined by University of Bristol obesity specialist James Nobles, we made the case for identifying the extent of the problem, acknowledge gaps in for children and young people, and developing clear guidelines and care pathways beyond Tier 2, with appropriate funding and clear responsibilities. Kath said afterwards that: “the meeting was incredible – we shared our concerns about the lack of specialist support services for child obesity with the Government, and really felt listened to” and together we’ll continue to press the issue.

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