People finishing the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme have lost the equivalent weight of 43 ambulances, NHS England revealed.

A total of 89,604 people have now finished the programme, losing a combined weight of 185,051 kg, or 2 kg per person on an average.

The 9 to 12 month programme, started by NHS England in 2016, is designed to get people at higher risk of type 2 diabetes to change their lifestyle and dietary habits to avoid getting the disease which affects 3.4 million people in England and costs the NHS £8.8 billion a year.

The service is run through GP referral, and pharmacies provide people with free diabetes screening. It is the first of its kind to have achieved a full national roll-out.

As part of the NHS Long Term Plan, the programme will double in size to treat around 200,000 people every year with expert advice on dieting, exercise and healthy lifestyle.

“Around two-thirds of adults and one-third of children are now overweight or obese, driving higher and higher rates of type 2 diabetes that we are now focusing huge efforts to prevent as part of our NHS Long Term Plan,” said Prof. Jonathan Valabhji, NHS national director for obesity and diabetes.

NHS estimates nearly 39,000 people living with diabetes suffering a heart attack in 2035, over 50,000 people suffering a stroke and one in six hospital bed are occupied with a diabetes patient.

Last year, NHS has also announced a digital expansion scheme to prevent type 2 diabetes, which includes wearable tech and online peer support groups.

“It’s encouraging to see the early success of this programme which is helping so many people around the country make healthier choices, equipping them to better deal with what is one of the biggest health challenges facing the nation,” said Dr Jenifer Smith, Deputy Medical Director at Public Health England.

“Going forward we need to do more to reach out to those who may feel the programme is not for them, including some ethnic minority groups, who we know experience large inequalities in health,” she said.

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