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Slimmers will be given cash or shopping vouchers under new NHS plans

Overweight people will be paid to lose weight, under radical new Government plans unveiled today to tackle the escalating obesity crisis

Under the NHS-backed scheme, those who shed the pounds will be rewarded with cash or shopping vouchers.

Incentives could be higher or lower depending on the amount of weight a participant loses, although the amounts are still unclear.

However only those with a job will qualify - and employers will also be urged to offer incentives to staff who shed pounds.

Firms would receive tax breaks from the Government and would also some funding to set up slimming or exercise classes.

The move is part of a wider effort to ease the strain placed on the NHS by fat patients.

More than two thirds of UK adults are clinically overweight or obese and the NHS spends £5 billion a year treating obesity-related illnesses.

Under the new plans, NHS staff will also be urged to 'set a national example'.

Access to unhealthy foods on NHS premises will be cut and staff will have their health and wellbeing 'measured'.

Around 700,000 of the NHS's 1.3 million staff are either overweight or obese

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said earlier this year that staff must 'get our own act together' before lecturing the public on cutting down on calories.

He said too many hospitals serve 'chips and burgers' to both patients and staff - and the latter face being banned from eating junk food in hospital canteens to force them to set an example to patients.

Mr Stevens said workplace schemes to encourage weight loss have been largely ignored - despite success abroad.

He personally managed to lose nearly 3st thanks to a weight-loss incentive scheme at his previous job, the firm United Healthcare.

Mr Stevens said the tax-payer funded NHS has led to a 'blind spot' about the healthcare of employees.

He explained: 'Employers in many countries have developed voluntary schemes for their employees whereby, for example, you actually get cash back based on participation in Weight Watchers, or other type schemes.'

Asked what sorts of rewards could be offered, he said: 'It could be shopping vouchers, it could be cash, it could be prizes.'

It is understood the NHS plans to 'challenge' firms to bring in such schemes rather than offer them money.

The NHS must also make a concerted effort to address the root causes of ill health - such as poor diets, alcohol consumption and smoking, a landmark report published today said,

The weight loss incentive scheme was announced as part of a wider shake-up of the healthcare system in England in the next parliament proposed by NHS bosses.

Other measures include tax cuts for volunteers and 'breaking down the boundaries' between GPs and hospitals.

The report also includes plans to recruit an army of volunteers to help feed elderly dementia patients in hospital or care for them at home.

These members of the public would then get 10 per cent off their annual council tax bill – as much as £200 depending on where they live.

It does not yet specify how much voluntary work would need to be done to be entitled to this benefit or the exact tasks entailed.

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