Results from a report evaluating the effectiveness of a weight loss programme undertaken by GPs and pharmacies in Heart of Birmingham teaching PCT have shown that nine months after starting the programme, pharmacy participants lost an average of 3.4 kg, compared with 2.3 kg for those using GP surgeries.
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The My Choice Weight Management Programme was designed to support individuals "ready to change", through meetings with healthcare workers, to develop a plan that would help the person lose 5 to 10 per cent of their initial weight.
A total of 204 people, with half at GP surgeries and half at pharmacies, attended 12 weekly consultations and were then offered up to three follow-up appointments, with the final one taking place around nine months after the start of the programme.
GPs did better than pharmacies in helping people lose weight in the initial three months, with the average weight loss being 3.8 kg, or a 4 per cent loss from their initial weight, among GP surgery participants, compared with a 2.4 kg (2.8 per cent) reduction for pharmacy users.
However, by nine months, the pharmacy group had kept off more weight than those taking part at GP surgeries, losing an average of 3.4 kg, or 4 per cent, and 2.3 kg (2.2 per cent) respectively.
GP providers were also slightly more expensive than pharmacy providers, the report from Aston University added.
Although it was "not clear" whether GP providers or pharmacy providers of the programme were more cost-effective, GPs seemed to offer more value for money over 12 sessions, but pharmacies were more cost-effective over the whole programme, the report concluded.
It was difficult to know why pharmacies were better at helping patients keep the weight off, said pharmacist Joseph Bush, one of the report authors.
"It could be a reflection of a variety of things," he said. "It could be having access to pharmacies that they can't get from GPs."
As most GP patients were recruited by their doctor, while pharmacy participants joined after seeing advertising, it was possible the pharmacy group was more motivated to lose weight, Dr Bush suggested.
"I think the key thing is that [the programme was] really well-organised, and it demonstrates that pharmacy can be very effective way for providing services," he added.