THE NHS has united with Widnes Vikings to try to tackle obesity.

The health service is working with the rugby team to help children to exercise more frequently.

This part of a national initiative where GPs could be encouraged to refer overweight football fans to a training scheme at their club to help them get fit, under a suggestion by an NHS chief.

Simon Stevens, NHS England chief executive, said commissioners should consider enabling GPs to refer supporters to the scheme.

He said: “Obesity is a public health emergency and tackling it needs to be a team effort.

“Football clubs are the centre of communities across England and working with them to encourage fans to get fit is a great idea that can produce real results.”

The programme – currently available in England at Swindon Town, Wycombe Wanderers, Blackpool, Middlesbrough and Charlton Athletic – was first run in Scotland.

Clubs put on a three-month sports and exercise course, and give healthy eating advice. The Swindon FC scheme saw 30 men lose more than 40 stone in weight, according to NHS England.

Local NHS services are now working with the Widnes Vikings to offer coaching by rugby players.