HEALTH bosses in the region are looking into whether so-called "fat camps" can be set up in the North-East.

Inspired by the example of the UK's first camp for overweight children in Leeds, NHS officials in Teesside want to take a closer look.

Nutritional expert Dr Beckie Lang, from Teesside University, has been commissioned by Middlesbrough Primary Care Trust (PCT) to find out whether the camp provides any answers to the region's growing problem of childhood obesity.

If it is approved by health chiefs later this year, it could lead to similar camps being set up on Teesside.

Founded four years ago, the residential summer camp, run by Leeds Metropolitan University, has helped hundreds of obese youngsters lose weight.

The Leeds camp provides a supervised programme of healthy eating, exercise and weight management and claims about a 70 per cent success rate.

Dr Paul Gately, director of the camp, has said the emphasis was on teaching children life-long lessons about the importance of exercise and healthy eating.

It has helped Colin Ord, 18, from Seaham, County Durham, slim down from 33 stone to 25 stone and rediscover his self-confidence.

His mother, Brenda, has described the camp as "the best thing to have happened to Colin".

Dr Lang is hoping to complete her report by next month.

Her recommendations will be discussed by the full Middlesbrough PCT board.

"The PCT is really keen to develop services around childhood obesity," said Dr Lang, who has just moved to the North-East from the Medical Research Council in Cambridge.

"What they want to do is look at the Leeds camp and see if it is something than can be transferred to the North-East."

The relatively high cost of the residential scheme - fees for the six-week course at Leeds are about £2,000 - could mean that smaller camps, based around schools, leisure centres or football clubs might be the way forward.

"There are arguments for and against residential schemes which we will be looking at," said Dr Lang.

In the week that a number of medical colleges called for greater national efforts to combat obesity, the organisers of the Leeds camp have criticised the NHS for failing to sponsor participants.