Abstract Background The rates of obesity and associated health problems are higher in people with serious mental illness (SMI), such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, than the general population. A primary care referral to a behavioural weight management programme can be an effective intervention, but people with SMI have reported barriers to engaging with them and bespoke options are rarely provided in routine practice. It is possible that adjunct support addressing these specific barriers could help. Here we report the development, feasibility and acceptability of an intervention to improve uptake and engagement with a mainstream weight management programme for people with SMI. Methods We worked with people with a lived-experience of SMI and used the person-based approach to develop the ‘Weight cHange for people with sErious mEntal iLlness’ (WHEEL) intervention. It comprised a referral to a mainstream weight management programme (WW®) to be attended once a week, in-person or online, for 12-weeks. The adjunct support comprised a one-off, online consultation called Meet Your Mentor and weekly, telephone or email Mentor Check Ins for 12-weeks. We assessed the feasibility of WHEEL through the number of programme and adjunct support sessions that the participants attended. We analysed the acceptability of WHEEL using a thematic analysis of qualitative interviews conducted at baseline and at 12-week follow-up. Our exploratory outcome of clinical effectiveness was self-reported weight at baseline and at end-of-programme. Results Twenty participants were assessed for eligibility and 17 enrolled. All 17 participants attended Meet Your Mentor and one was lost to follow-up (94% retention). Nine out of 16 attended ≥50% of the weekly programme sessions and 12/16 attended ≥50% of the weekly check-ins. Participants reported in the interviews that the adjunct support helped to establish and maintain a therapeutic alliance. While some participants valued the in-person sessions, others reported that they preferred the online sessions because it removed a fear of social situations, which was a barrier for some participants. The mean change in self-reported weight was − 4·1 kg (SD: 3·2) at 12-weeks. Conclusions A mainstream weight management programme augmented with brief and targeted education and low-intensity check-ins generated sufficient engagement and acceptability to warrant a future trial.
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