Govt plans child weightwatchers

Parents are to be kept informed of changes to their children’s weight under a government measuring programme, it has been announced.

The health and social care bill published today contains plans to keep parents of children participating in the national child measurement programme informed about weight details.

Currently the scheme applies to those in the first and last years of primary school but it is not mandatory. It will remain voluntary under the new proposed legislation.

Health minister Ben Bradshaw said the plan was not geared towards creating a nanny state by telling parents what to do.

Instead he emphasised the benefits of helping families towards a healthier lifestyle.

“Giving parents clear information about their child’s weight is important way of engaging with families, and prompting a conversation about healthy lifestyles and weight issues within the home,” he explained.

“Tackling obesity is a top priority for the government, and this change is part of our commitment to make the NHS a service that prevents ill health, as well as treating it – a wellbeing service, rather than a sickness service.”

Doctors have welcomed the move. Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the British Medical Association, said: “We are very supportive of any measures that will help young people to lead healthier lifestyles and will want to work with the government to ensure that any initiatives are delivered in a way that will achieve the most effective results.”

Dr Meldrum was less impressed with other aspects of the bill, including planned reforms to professional regulation. Planned changes include the creation of a new independent adjudication role and the appointment of ‘responsible officers’ to supervise the conduct and performance of doctors at a local level.

“The BMA is absolutely committed to protecting patients from the small number of under-performing doctors. However, we do not believe that many of the proposed changes outlined in this bill will help to achieve this,” he said.

“The best way to protect the public is to develop a system that is fair and that has the confidence of both patients and doctors.”

Mr Bradshaw said the changes would allow patients’ concerns about an individual practitioner to be dealt with “swiftly, fairly and effectively”.