BACKGROUND: Excess weight and unexpected weight loss are associated with multiple disease states and increased morbidity and mortality, but weight measurement is not routine in many primary care settings. The aim of this study was to characterise who has had their weight recorded in UK primary care, how frequently, by whom and in relation to which clinical events, symptoms and diagnoses. METHODS: A longitudinal analysis of UK primary care electronic health records (EHR) data from 2000 to 2017. Descriptive statistics were used to summarise weight recording in terms of patient sociodemographic characteristics, health professional encounters, clinical events, symptoms and diagnoses. Negative binomial regression was used to model the likelihood of having a weight record each year, and Cox regression to the likelihood of repeated weight recording. RESULTS: A total of 14,049,871 weight records were identified in the EHR of 4,918,746 patients during the study period, representing 26,998,591 person-years of observation. Around a third of patients had a weight record each year. Forty-nine percent of weight records were repeated within a year with an average time to a repeat weight record of 1.92 years. Weight records were most often taken by nursing staff (38-42%) and GPs (37-39%) as part of a routine clinical care, such as chronic disease reviews (16%), medication reviews (6-8%) and health checks (6-7%), or were associated with consultations for contraception (5-8%), respiratory disease (5%) and obesity (1%). Patient characteristics independently associated with an increased likelihood of weight recording were as follows: female sex, younger and older adults, non-drinkers, ex-smokers, low or high BMI, being more deprived, diagnosed with a greater number of comorbidities and consulting more frequently. The effect of policy-level incentives to record weight did not appear to be sustained after they were removed. CONCLUSION: Weight recording is not a routine activity in UK primary care. It is recorded for around a third of patients each year and is repeated on average every 2 years for these patients. It is more common in females with higher BMI and in those with comorbidity. Incentive payments and their removal appear to be associated with increases and decreases in weight recording.
Cohort study, Electronic health records, Observational research, Primary care, Weight recording