HL Deb 09 February 2004 vol 656 cc130-1WA
Earl Howe

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is the annual cost to the National Health Service of problems associated with obesity and excessive body weight; and what estimates have been made of the annual cost of these problems to the United Kingdom economy, measured in terms of absences from work, social security benefits, premature retirement and early mortality, or any other indicator. [HL938]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Warner)

The National Audit Office reportTackling Obesity in England, published in 2001, estimated that the direct cost to the National Health Service of treating obesity in 1998 was £ 9.5 million. Treating the consequences of obesity cost the National Health Service approximately £ 469.9 million per year, or about 1.5 per cent of the total NHS expenditure for that year.

Combining the direct cost of £ 479 million and indirect costs (earnings lost due to premature mortality and sickness absence) of £2.150 billion, the total estimated cost of obesity in England in 1998 was £2.6 billion. If the prevalence of obesity continues to rise at the present rate until 2010, the annual costs are estimated to increase by £1 billion, to £3.6 billion.

The total number of incapacity benefit (IB) beneficiaries at August 2003 was 1.5 million, of whom 900,000 have a diagnosis of obesity. The average weekly amount of IB in payment to people with a diagnosis of obesity is £ 78.85.

The Secretary of State for Health announced on Tuesday 3 February 2004 a period of consultation on a public health White Paper. This will provide the overarching framework for work on diet and nutrition, physical activity (tobacco and sexually transmitted infections (STIs)), and obesity that the Department of Health and other government departments are already engaged in. The consultation will trigger a wide-ranging debate with the public, the media, industry, voluntary groups and health professionals about how the nation can best tackle issues like obesity, smoking and STIs.

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