The next Government must get to grips with the UK’s obesity epidemic, or risk plunging the NHS into irreversible financial trouble, warns the Obesity Health Alliance (OHA) as it launches its 10 –point policy manifesto today.

The number of overweight and obese children is at its highest level ever[i], and obesity is estimated to cost the NHS at least £5.1 billion a year[ii], says the Alliance, which represents over 40 leading health charities, campaign groups and medical royal colleges and hundreds of thousands of health professionals.

This amount is equivalent* to the salary of 165,000 nurses or 85,000 hospital doctors.[iii] It can also be compared to the cost** of carrying out 116,000 heart transplants or nearly 730,000 hip replacements.[iv]

The OHA is calling for each political party to make tackling obesity a priority, especially in children. Its manifesto highlights what the next government must do to help tackle the UK’s obesity epidemic. This includes:

  • Reducing sugar, saturated fat and salt in everyday foods
  • Closing the existing loopholes in junk food marketing regulations both online and offline
  • Fully implementing and evaluating the Soft Drinks Industry Levy

Professor John Wass from the Royal College of Physicians said: “Our 41 organisations collectively represent all spheres of the health arena. We have come together to issue a stark warning to the next Government that they simply can’t afford to ignore the spiralling obesity epidemic. Without strong measures to tackle obesity we are condemning our NHS to failure.”

Caroline Cerny, Alliance Lead, said: “The direct cost to the NHS of over £5 billion is shocking enough, but the true economic cost to wider society is five times as much – £27 billion annually.[v]  It makes not only moral sense to combat obesity, but clear economic sense too. As our waistlines continue to increase, so do the chances of developing devastating diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular and liver disease plus associated mental health problems.”

The introduction of the Soft Drinks Industry Levy and targets to reduce sugar from foods commonly eaten by children, are positive steps which could significantly contribute to creating a healthier environment, say the Alliance.  But it’s crucial this momentum is continued by whoever forms the next Government.

More than one in five children are overweight or obese in their first year of primary school and this rises to over one in three by the time they leave.i The alliance insists that the next Government needs to ensure children have the best possible start in life and parents and families are enabled and encouraged to make healthy food choices.

– Ends –


[i] NHS Digital (2016). National Childhood Measurement Programme – England, 2015-16.

[ii] Scarborough P, Bhatnagar P, Wickramasinghe KK et al. The economic burden of ill health due to diet, physical inactivity, smoking, alcohol and obesity in the UK: an update to 2006/07 NHS costs. J Public Health (Oxon) 2011;33(4):527-35.

[iii] NHS Digital (2016). NHS Staff Earnings Estimates. Estimates to September 2016, Provisional statistics

[iv] Department of Health (2016). Reference Costs 2015-16.

[v] McKinsey Global Institute. 2014. Overcoming Obesity: an initial economic analysis.


*Average salary of doctors including consultants and registrars, but excluding locums and GPs = £59,882

Average salary of qualified nurses including Midwives and Health Visitors = £31,316

Numbers rounded up or down to the nearest thousand.


** Heart transplant cost = 44,200, hip replacement cost = 7,100

Numbers rounded up or down to the nearest thousand.


The Obesity Health Alliance (OHA) is a coalition of over 40 leading health charities, campaign groups and Royal Medical Colleges who have joined together to fight obesity.

The membership of the OHA comprises: Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, Action on Sugar, Association for the Study of Obesity, British Association of Sport and Exercise Medicine, British Dietetic Association, British Dental Association, British Heart Foundation, British Liver Trust, British Medical Association, British Obesity and Metabolic Surgery Society, British Society of Gastroenterology, Cancer Research UK, Children’s Food Campaign, Children’s Food Trust, Caroline Walker Trust, Children’s Liver Disease Foundation, Diabetes UK, Faculty of Public Health, Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine, Health Action Campaign, Health Equalities Group, Food Foundation, HOOP, Heart Research UK, Institute of Health Visiting, Jamie Oliver Food Foundation, National Obesity Forum, Men’s Health Forum, Royal College of Anaesthetists, Royal College of General Practitioners, Royal College of Nursing, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, Royal College of Physicians, Royal College of Psychiatrists, Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, Royal College of Surgeons of England, Royal Society of Public Health, Society for Endocrinology, UK Health Forum, World Cancer Research Fund UK

The press release has been issued on the behalf of the Obesity Health Alliance steering group, which comprises of: British Heart Foundation, British Medical Association, Cancer Research UK, Children’s Food Campaign, Diabetes UK, Faculty of Public Health, Royal College of Physicians, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and UK Health Forum.