SO-CALLED "fat camps" could be a step closer to being established in the North-East, which has the worst childhood obesity in the country.

Nutrition expert Dr Beckie Lang, of Teesside University, has been impressed by what she has seen at Britain's only fat-busting camp near Leeds after a fact-finding trip.

She is expected to recommend to health officials in the region that they look seriously at either referring children to the camp or setting up a similar project.

For the sixth year running children from all over the UK are taking part in a supervised programme of healthy eating, exercise and weight management at the summer camp run by Leeds Metropolitan University.

Despite claims that about 70 per cent of children successfully lose weight, only a handful of the 130 children at this year's camp are from the North-East and none of them have had any assistance from the NHS to meet fees of about £2,000 per child.

Paul Gately, director of the summer camp, said: "Even though we have a very good track record, once again we get very little support from the NHS for what we do."

"We have got lots of kids from the South but there is no funding at all for any of the kids from the North-East," he said.

Dr Lang interviewed children and staff during her research.

"The real strength of the camp is that children are with their peers and gain confidence in taking part in sporting activities," she said.

Jonathan Smith, health inequalities manager with Middlesbrough Primary Care Trust, said: "We know the camp has had some success. What we need to know is whether it is worth sending young people or whether we should try a community-based approach nearer to home."