Rotherham obesity centre inspired by Jamie Oliver has uncertain future

A pioneering obesity clinic in Rotherham established after a healthy eating campaign in the town by TV chef Jamie Oliver faces an uncertain future due to budget cuts, council officials have admitted.

The Family Learning Ministry of Food programme run by the Foundation of Light is supported by Jamie Olivers Ministry of Food.

The Rotherham Institute of Obesity (RIO) is reported to be one of 21 public health services being reviewed by the district’s council after a £1.3m budget cut from the Government.

According to the centre’s clinical manager Dr Matt Capehorn, any degree of funding cuts would mean it would not be able to operate. He said: “We see on average about 1,500 patients referred to [the institute] each year and our budget is £300,000 from the local authority... Even a small financial cut means we would have to close.”

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The clinic was commissioned in 2009 after Oliver launched his Ministry of Food project to encourage people to increase their knowledge of food. Oliver targeted Rotherham after mothers were pictured shoving burgers and chips through school railings in protest at menus suggested by him in a Channel 4 programme.

The population of Rotherham is 259,000 and 73 per cent of adults in the town are overweight and obese, according to authority figures.

RIO’s services are provided to obese patients only, so the number of people potentially eligible for the service is three in 10 of the adult population.

Jo Abbott, Rotherham’s Assistant Director of Public Health, said: “No decisions have been made yet as we are only at the stage of establishing what local people and partners consider the priorities to be. Following the results of the consultation the Council will have to make some tough decisions.

“Like all of the services under review, weight management may be one of the areas affected by the funding cuts.

“Whatever the outcome tackling obesity will continue to be a focus of our work but there is no guarantee that the services will continue to be delivered in the same way given the extent of the budget reductions.”