Sheffield mum's anger as NHS wrongly labels tall daughter, 5, overweight and recommends 'healthy lifestyle'

Sheffield mum Jemma Fletcher is furious with the NHS – after it wrongly labelled her tall daughter overweight and advised a healthy lifestyle programme.

Thursday, 11th November 2021, 2:18 pm

Jemma received a letter about Lily, aged five, from the Sheffield School Nursing Service, stating: “Weight status: overweight”.

At 24.6kg she is among the top 93 per cent for weight. But at 114.9cm tall she is in the top 98 per cent for height.

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Jessica Fletcher with daughter Lily, aged five, who was wrongly labelled 'overweight' by the NHS

Jemma will not tell her daughter about the letter.

She said: “I was absolutely disgusted and shocked to read that my child is classed as “overweight” and then signposted in the letter to a 12-week healthy lifestyle programme that I could attend. There is no way on this earth that she is overweight!

“I think it is appalling that the data/graphs the school nursing teams assess our children against seemingly do not consider children’s height, medical conditions and each individual child’s own pattern of growth. Instead it is compared to a national average.

“Shouldn’t this department be making these letters more personal to each child? Had it been explained better in the letter it may not have caused so much worry and upset. Luckily, I have a lot of support around me, and I know that my child is definitely not overweight. But 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.

Jemma Fletcher and her daughter Lily who is deemed overweight by the NHS

“Lily will never be told the results of this letter and how much it has upset me but other parents may tell their child intentionally or unintentionally – then what does the child think?

She wants the NHS to use all the information about each child, not just a national average.

Apology from nursing service

She has received an apology from the school nursing service, and confirmation Lily is not overweight.

Pauline Williams, head of 0-19 community services at Sheffield Children's Hospital, said: “Our school nurses who run the Sheffield National Child Measurement Programme are happy to discuss with any parent or carer the details of their child’s situation and any concerns they may have following their measurement results. The team are able to work individually with each child and their family to make sure they’re supported and understand what their results mean.”

Greg Fell, Sheffield director of public health, added: “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.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We have a rigorous approach to reviewing all the NCMP guidance every year and consult with a wide range of experts including clinical and health psychologists in weight management, mental health, eating disorders and behaviour. Children, families, school-nurses and headteachers are also consulted to seek their views.

They said one large study found most parents found the feedback helpful.

Local journalism holds the powerful to account and gives people a voice. Please take out a digital subscription or buy a paper. Thank you. Nancy Fielder, editor