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A trial testing the effectiveness of referral to commercial weight management services and the optimum length of the referral.

Our previous research has shown that group-based commercial weight loss programmes are more effective than trying to lose weight unaided or with the help of a trained NHS clinician and the commercial programmes were also cheaper to provide.

In this trial, we tested whether a 12-week referral and a 12-month referral to a commercial programme were more effective than a self-help booklet to support weight loss and whether the cost of the referral was value for money for the NHS.

The trial showed that 12-month programme led to the greatest weight loss over 2 years with bigger impacts on blood sugar than either of the other two programmes and it was cost-effective. However, the 12-week programme was more effective than the self-help programme  but less effective than the 12-month programme.

Importantly, over 25 years the 12-week programme was cost-saving for the NHS, not just cost-effective.