Background: Many people with obesity receive weight loss consultations by general practice nurses (GPNs) in routine primary care. This exploratory study aimed to characterise the components of these consultations, including behaviour change techniques (BCTs), and dietary and physical activity recommendations. Methods: We analysed audio recordings of weight management consultations conducted by 8 GPNs as part of the ‘usual care’ group in a randomised controlled trial (ISRCTN75092026). Consultations were coded against three taxonomies to classify BCTs, dietary recommendations, and physical activity recommendations. Associations between coded content and weight loss were assessed. Differences in the content of consultations where weight loss was < 5% or ≥ 5% from baseline weight at 6 months were explored. Results: One hundred and fifty audio recordings were available from 53 out of 140 (38%) participants in the usual care group. Participants had on average 3 (SD = 1) recorded consultations over 3 months, lasting 14 (SD = 7) minutes each. Weight change at 3, 6, and 12 months was -3.6% (SD = 4.3), -5.5% (SD = 6.0) and -4.2% (SD = 6.5) for participants with audio recordings. GPNs used 3.9 (SD = 1.6) of 93 BCTs, 3.3 (SD = 2.7) of 30 dietary recommendations and 1.4 (SD = 1.2) of 10 physical activity recommendations per consultation. The most commonly employed BCTs were feedback on outcome of behaviour (80.0%), problem solving (38.0%), and social reward (34.3%). The most common dietary recommendations were about portion size (31.3%), nutrients (28.0%), and balanced diet (19.7%). The main physical activity recommendation was about walking (30.3%). There was no association between weight loss and the number of dietary recommendations, physical activity recommendations, or BCTs used per consultation, or per participant. Social reward was the only technique used significantly more in consultations of participants that lost ≥ 5% of their baseline weight at 6 months. Conclusions: The study provides a new method that could be used to describe the content of weight management consultations. Specific dietary or physical activity recommendations and BCTs were used infrequently and inconsistently in this group of GPNs. Although replication is required in larger samples, this may point to a weakness in current practice.
BMC Family Practice