Mother-of-two slams NHS after being told daughter is overweight

Mother-of-two slams NHS after she received letter saying her five-year-old daughter is overweight despite weighing just over three-and-a-half stone

  • Jemma Fletcher, 37, was sent a letter by NHS that daughter Lily was ‘overweight’
  • The five year old have been weighed and measured at school by visiting nurses
  • Ms Fletcher of Sheffield, South Yorkshire, said she was ‘disgusted’ by the letter
  • ‘It’s just upsetting and shocking,’ she said – calling for letters to be personalised

A mother has criticised health bosses after receiving a letter which labelled her five-year-old daughter overweight.

Jemma Fletcher, 37, was sent a letter from Sheffield Children’s Hospital NHS Foundation Trust after tests on her daughter Lily revealed she was above the recommended weight for her age.

The little girl had been weighed and measured at school by visiting nurses. 

Mrs Fletcher, of Sheffield, South Yorkshire, said: ‘I was absolutely disgusted and shocked to read Lily was classed as overweight. It’s just upsetting and shocking.

Jemma Fletcher, 37, received the letter from Sheffield Children’s Hospital NHS Foundation Trust after her little girl Lily was weighed at school by visiting nurses

‘There’s nothing on her, she’s tiny. My family were all like, “don’t worry about it, it’s just a letter, we all know she’s not overweight”.

‘I know she’s not overweight, but if you’re a parent who’s struggling, you could take it and put your child on a diet. 

‘You’ve got enough to worry about as a mum.

‘What if I was someone who didn’t have that support and was suffering with anxiety and worries about their children anyway? This letter could have quite easily pushed them over the edge.

‘It’s hard enough anyway, there’s enough pressure on you to look a certain way, it could really give a child a complex at a young age.’

Lily’s mother Jemma Fletcher, 37, said: ‘There’s nothing on her, she’s tiny. My family were all like, “don’t worry about it, it’s just a letter, we all know she’s not overweight.”‘

The tests were carried out by the NHS across in schools in October as part of a National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP). 

In the letter, Mrs Fletcher was told that as Lily is 114.9cm tall and weighs 24.6kg, she is therefore categorised as ‘overweight’.

The letter went on to offer a free 12-week healthy lifestyle programme and suggested Lily undergo ‘simple changes to be more active’, despite already being fit and healthy.

But Mrs Fletcher has called for the NHS to make the letters more personalised to children’s growth rather than based on stats.

She added: ‘I’m not disagreeing with the letter, what I’m saying is they should be personalised. I’m all up for sending letters to children, but make it personalised to that child.

‘Had it been explained better in the letter it may not have caused so much worry and upset.

‘Somebody just puts the numbers in a computer and sends the letters to the families.’

The National Child Measurement Programme is a scheme that sees children in Reception and Year Six weighed and measured at school. This will be used to calculate their BMI.

The figure is reached by comparing a child’s weight with their age, height and sex.

Once the BMI is calculated, the child will be placed in one of four categories – underweight, healthy weight, overweight or very overweight. 

Ms Fletcher was ‘disgusted’ and slammed the NHS letter, saying it could fuel mental health issues such as anxiety and stress in youngsters and parents

What is the National Child Measurement Programme? 

The National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) measures the height and weight of children in Reception class (aged four to five) and year 6 (aged 10 to 11), to assess obesity levels in primary schools.

The data can be used to support national public health initiatives, and locally to inform the planning and delivery of services for children.  

The programme was set up in line with the government’s strategy to tackle obesity, and to:

  • Inform local planning and delivery of services for children
  • Gather population-level data to allow analysis of trends in obesity
  • Increase public and professional understanding of weight issues in children
  • Be a vehicle for engaging with children and families about healthy lifestyles and weight issues

Heights and weights are measured and used to calculate a Body Mass Index (BMI) centile. The measurement process is overseen by trained healthcare professionals in schools.

 Source: NCPM

About one in five children in Reception are classed as overweight or obese, rising to one in three in year six.

Parents are informed what category their child falls into, which the NHS says allows them to plan and provide better health services for children.

But Mrs Fletcher, who also lives with husband Toby, 36, and older daughter Amelia, 7, believes the ‘one size fits all’ approach is wrong.

She added: ‘I know Lily does enough, she’s not overweight. She’s a bit tall for her age, but we’re tall. I’m 5’7 and her dad is 6’2, it’s in her genes.

‘She’s very active, she’s always on her bike and running round, she’s in size 4-5 or 5-6 clothes which is right for her age.

‘I’d like to see the letters be more individual and linked to the past measurements, not just what they are compared to the national average.

‘There are going to be some children who are overweight, but there might be a medical reason, for example medication.

‘Rather than a standard letter going out to all children, they should take everything in to consideration within the letter.’

Greg Fell, Sheffield’s director of public health, said: ‘The NCMP is a hugely valuable programme which helps provide important information relating to the health and wellbeing of children living in the city.

‘I am entirely satisfied that the programme follows national guidance in order to monitor overweight and obesity at a population level. It does not intend to cause offence or upset but to support families in their efforts to lead a healthy lifestyle.’

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