NHS England has expanded its ‘soups and shakes’ weight loss programme, which targets type 2 diabetes by helping obese patients lose weight.

Following the expansion, community pharmacies and GPs in another 11 areas of England will be able to refer patients to the scheme.

The NHS Low Calorie Diet programme ‘may be suitable for some adults aged 18-65 years, diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in the last six years and living with overweight or obesity who also meet other eligibility criteria,’ NHS England said.

Supporting people with type 2 diabetes to lose weight and ‘make better decisions about their health’ through the programme also helps them ‘better control their blood sugar levels.’ This then reduces their need for medication and could enable them to achieve remission, NHS England said.

Early data from over 2,000 participants on the 12-month treatment course found they lost 7.2kg (over one stone) on average after one month, and 13.4kg (over two stone) after three months.

On the programme, participants are given low-calorie diet replacement products such as shakes and soups for the first three months. After this, they are reintroduced to healthy, nutritious foods with support through virtual one-to-ones, group sessions and digital support.

In previous clinical trials, almost half of those who went on the reduced-calorie diet achieved remission of their type 2 diabetes after one year.

NHS England has said it expanded the programme – which ran in 10 regions across the country – to the 11 news regions this month following its ‘early and life-changing success’.

Diabetes is estimated to cost the NHS £10bn a year, with treatment accounting for one in 20 prescriptions written by GPs.

Professor Jonathan Valabhji, NHS England’s national clinical director for diabetes and obesity, said: ‘We know this weight loss will go a long way to help people stay well and avoid preventable illness, and for many will also mean they can put type 2 diabetes into remission.’

He also said the diet was ‘the latest example’ of the NHS adopting ‘evidence-based treatments’, with results so far ‘in line with what we have found in trials’.

Chris Askew, chief executive at Diabetes UK, said: ‘Since its launch, this low-calorie diet pilot, inspired by Diabetes UK’s ground-breaking DiRECT trial, has helped thousands of people across England access the support they need to lose weight effectively and potentially put their type 2 diabetes in remission.

‘Remission can be life-changing, offering people a better chance of a healthier future. Today’s announcement means that many more people across England who are living with type 2 diabetes and overweight will have the chance to get the support they need to go into remission.’

A version of this story was initially published on our sister title Pulse.