Dieters could be given supermarket discounts and shopping vouchers under NHS plans to pilot financial rewards for weight loss. 

Health chiefs are launching a £6 million pilot scheme that will see incentives offered to those who shed the pounds.  Companies such as supermarkets and fitness firms are being asked to bid to run the systems, which could be expanded across the country if they succeed. 

Other proposals under discussion include the prescription of "Fitbits" and other wearable devices to persuade people to take part in a national competitive step challenge. 

Health officials are examining methods tried abroad, for example in Singapore, which had a "national steps challenge" encouraging people to compete using digital trackers.

Sir Keith Mills, who pioneered the Airmiles and Nectar shoppin points programes, is advising the scheme, which will launch a six-month pilot next January.

Two in three adults are overweight or obese, along with a third of children leaving primary school. Obesity-related illnesses cost the NHS £6 billion a year and have fuelled Covid death rates. 

Obesity admissions over the last 5 years

Sir Keith said: "The Health Incentives scheme could be a vital tool in the Government’s plans to tackle health inequalities and encourage healthier behaviours. This is a fantastic opportunity for businesses, the public and third sectors to come together and deliver a new and exciting way of supporting people to healthier habits. 

"This is why we are calling for interested partners to come forward with their innovative ideas and help play a pivotal part in the Government’s plans to improve public health."

Last year, ministers said the NHS could save £100 million if everyone who was overweight lost at least 5lbs. GPs are already paid to refer those who are obese for slimming advice. 

Jo Churchill, the public health minister, said: "This government is committed to improving the health of everyone, and we want to make it easier for people to increase their physical activity and eat better. 

"The Health Incentives scheme will help us understand the role that rewards and incentives could play in helping people lead healthy lives."