Exploring weight loss services in primary care and staff views on using a web-based programme

Lisa J Ware, Sarah Williams, Katherine Bradbury, Catherine Brant, Paul Little, FD Richard Hobbs, Lucy Yardley


Background Demand is increasing for primary care to deliver effective weight management services to patients, but research suggests that staff feel inadequately resourced for such a role. Supporting service delivery with a free and effective web-based weight management programme could maximise primary care resource and provide cost-effective support for patients. However, integration of ehealth into primary care may face challenges.

Objectives To explore primary care staff experiences of delivering weight management services and their perceptions of a web-based weight management programme to aid service delivery.

Methods Focus groups were conducted with primary care physicians, nurses and healthcare assistants (n = 36) involved in delivering weight loss services. Data were analysed using inductive thematic analysis.

Results Participants thought that primary care should be involved in delivering weight management, especially when weight was aggravating health problems. However, they felt under-resourced to deliver these services and unsure as to the effectiveness of their input, as routine services were not evaluated. Beliefs that current services were ineffective resulted in staff reluctance to allocate more resources. Participants were hopeful that supplementing practice with a web-based weight management programme would enhance patient services and promote service evaluation.

Conclusions Although primary care staff felt they should deliver weight loss services, low levels of faith in the efficacy of current treatments resulted in provision of under-resourced and ‘ad hoc’ services. Integration of a web-based weight loss programme that promotes service evaluation and provides a cost-effective option for supporting patients may encourage practices to invest more in weight management services.


health services research; internet; lifestyle change; obesity; primary care

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.14236/jhi.v20i4.18


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