Wegovy™ access in Cheshire and Merseyside

Obesity is one of the leading causes of severe health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer, and it costs the NHS £6.5 billion a year. There were more than 1 million admissions to NHS hospitals in 2019/2020 where obesity was a factor.

Semaglutide (Wegovy) is a new drug that was launched in the UK on 4 September 2023 and is available on the NHS as an option for weight management in line with NICE Technology Appraisal guidance National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

The NICE recommendations state that Semaglutide can be considered for weight management, involving weight loss and maintenance, alongside a reduced-calorie diet and increased physical activity.

Clinicians in primary care, for example GPs, cannot directly prescribe Wegovy: a referral by the patients GP to a specialist weight management service with trained prescribers is the only way to access these medications.

Due to limited availability and capacity of specialist weight management services, across Cheshire and Merseyside we are working with NHS England to consider a number of options to support the roll out of Wegovy and we are hoping to be part of any NHS England future initiatives.

To support this work NHS Cheshire and Merseyside has agreed to:

  • Undertake a full review of the current pathways and delivery of Specialist Weight Management Services across Cheshire and Merseyside.
  • Support the development and adoption of a minimum Cheshire and Merseyside service specification for the provision of Tier 3 weight management services.
  • Support NHS Cheshire and Merseyside taking part in national pilot programmes in relation to medicines management of obesity.

NHS Cheshire and Merseyside acknowledges that there will be some challenges for patients accessing Wegovy at this point due to limited specialist weight management services and long waiting lists which is why we are committed to undertake the agreed work and work with national colleagues to consider further options that will widen access across Cheshire and Merseyside.

We recognise it can be extremely difficult for many people living with obesity to access the support they need and because of this we are working together across Cheshire and Merseyside to better support people living with obesity and overweight.

The NHS Digital Weight Management Programme supports adults living with obesity who also have a diagnosis of diabetes, hypertension or both, to manage their weight and improve their health. It is a 12-week online behavioural and lifestyle programme that people can access via a smartphone or computer with internet access.

We also know there will be many people who do not qualify for the weight loss medications which may cause disappointment and / or exacerbate new and existing mental health and wellbeing issues. People may find NHS talking therapies a helpful source of support.

NHS Cheshire and Merseyside is committed to improving access to services that support individuals to remain healthy and prevent long term health conditions. The planned work on reviewing weight management pathways and services has been identified as a priority area to work on.

More information about obesity treatment is available via the NHS website here: Obesity - Treatment - NHS (www.nhs.uk)