SLIMMING World has welcomed news that new NHS guidance has recognised the effectiveness of weight loss groups.

Two-thirds of the population should be sent to state-funded slimming classes run by firms such as Slimming World, according to latest guidance.

Official advice from the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence says the cost of funding 12-week courses run by commercial providers will be outweighed by potential NHS savings.

The guidance represents the first official endorsement of dieting techniques employed by Slimming World and called for a dramatic expansion of such schemes.

Slimming World consultant Lisa Clements said: “Slimming World on Referral is a long-established partnership scheme between health professionals and Slimming World, providing overweight patients with effective, long-lasting, community-based weight loss management.

“Health Practitioners looking for weight loss management programmes can refer patients to Slimming World groups, offering them free membership, ordinarily in blocks of 12 weeks.

The cost is paid by the NHS and subsidised by Slimming World, making this a very cost-effective intervention.”

Latest figures show that 64% of adults in the UK are classed as overweight or obese.

Nice said the costs of funding “lifestyle management” schemes for weight loss would be outweighed by their benefits - and that preventing a 1% increase in obesity would save the NHS and local authorities £97 million a year.