The Lifestyle Management Programme (LMP) is an exercise and weight management programme with physiotherapy support for people with hip or knee osteoarthritis (OA) and a body mass index (BMI) over 35. This qualitative study explored views and experiences of the LMP among patients and professionals, and offers insight for future programmes. Five referring clinicians and six delivering professionals participated in focus groups. Three referring GPs and nine patients who attended the LMP took part in semi‐structured interviews. Topics included: referral, reasons for taking up and continuing the programme or not, and experiences and outcomes. Framework method was used to analyse the qualitative data. Overall, patients and professionals valued the multidisciplinary nature of the LMP. However, professionals explained feeling guilty about delaying patients on the orthopaedic waiting list and believed that the programme should be redirected to those with less severe OA and a lower BMI. Referring clinicians differed in their interpretation of the referral criteria and expressed varying levels of autonomy when making referrals. Patients referred after a consultation with their general practitioner appeared to be more satisfied with the referral process. Patients were also encouraged by the opportunity to improve health, their likelihood of surgery and social benefits. However, patients were discouraged by inconvenience, cost, lack of readiness to change and embarrassment. In conclusion, shared decision‐making about lifestyle management without delaying orthopaedic opinion is preferable, and more psychological support may increase participation. Importantly, the programme may be better focused on rehabilitation for patients with a lower BMI and less severe symptoms.