LONDON: The UK will explore ways to make obesity drugs more accessible to people outside hospital settings and cut NHS waiting lists in a new £40 million (US$50 million) two-year pilot programme, the government announced on Wednesday.

While British prime minister Rishi Sunak has said cutting hospital waiting lists is one of his priorities, the National Health Service in England endured a tough winter, with waiting lists hitting record highs, and staff striking for higher pay amid double-digit inflation.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is also considering potential NHS use of the drug Tirzepatide, which is “currently licensed to treat diabetes but if receives a license in the coming months, may also help with weight loss.”

The pilot will look at how general practitioners could safely prescribe these drugs and how the NHS can provide support in the community or digitally, the statement said.

NICE recommended weight loss drug Semaglutide (Wegovy) earlier this year but advised that it should only be available via specialist weight management services, which are largely hospital based, and would therefore mean low access to it, the government said. - Reuters