Mum furious as her healthy child receives NHS letter saying she's 'overweight'

A mum has hit out against health officials after she received a letter claiming her five-year-old daughter is overweight.

Jemma Fletcher, 37, got the letter Sheffield Children’s Hospital NHS Foundation Trust after her child Lily was weighed at school by visiting nurses.

The stats showed that Lily was above the recommended weight for her age.

But Jemma, disgusted by the letter, said it could fuel mental health issues such as anxiety and stress in youngsters and parents.

She says: ‘I was absolutely disgusted and shocked to read Lily was classes as overweight. It’s just upsetting and shocking.

‘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.’

Tests were carried out in October across schools as part of a National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP).

They look to find the child’s Body Mass Index (BMI) and compared it to the national average, though BMI readings do have their limitations.

Jemma was told that Lily is 114.9cm tall and weighs 24.6kg, which is classed as ‘overweight’.

The letter then suggests a free 12-week health lifestyle programme, suggesting changes to encourage activity.

Though this may be helpful for some parents, Jemma 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 takes place in reception and year six.

Children get placed in one of four categories – underweight, healthy weight, overweight or very overweight.

The NHS says this allows them to plan and provide better health services for children.

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

Jemma 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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