No more Junk food in hospitals, but Yoga for NHS staff!
Following our story about hospital shop rip-offs (please see our Health Blog) we can now report that junk food chains are to be banned from NHS hospitals. It's an attempt to halt the rise in obesity in Britain.
NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens is insisting on changes to the type of food served in hospitals nationally, and fast food operations that sell unhealthy foods will be ejected.
This comes after an investigation by The Telegraph which highlighted how a fast food culture had grown inside the NHS. Health campaigners have been critical of Burger King, Greggs and almost a hundred branches of Costa Coffee selling muffins and drinks that are high in sugar.
Simon Stevens wants to attack obesity and poor health within the NHS itself. At the NHS Innovation Expo conference in Manchester he will say that it is unacceptable for NHS trusts to enter into contracts with any companies that promote unhealthy eating, or sell mainly food that doesn't meet nutritional standards. They have a stark choice: change the menu or leave.
Vending machines are also in Mr Stevens' sights and they will be limited to a maximum size of 250g for sweets and chocolates, with sugary drinks limited to 20 per cent of all available beverages.
Help for Staff
Meanwhile, NHS staff will be offered exercise classes to help keep them fit and working. The initiative is part of Mr Stevens' 5m solution for cutting the NHS bill for staff sickness, which is currently 2.4bn a year.
He feels that hospitals can help staff remain healthy and less stressed by offering Yoga and Zumba classes as well as serving healthy food. Organisations will be asked to provide access to physiotherapy, smoking cessation and weight management services, as well as sports or exercise classes.
Health checks for mental health and musculoskeletal problems, which are the two biggest causes of sickness absence across the NHS, should also be provided. And he would like GPs to be offered specialist support to avoid burnout.
Mr Stevens will say: "NHS staff have some of the most critical but demanding jobs in the country.
"When it comes to supporting the health of our own workforce, frankly the NHS needs to put its own house in order."
Public Health England says the money saved on reducing staff sickness can be spent on services for the public, and the healthier habits picked up by public-sector employees can be passed on to the people they serve.
Christina McAnea, from Unison, said: "The health and wellbeing of NHS staff at work has a direct impact on patients, and this initiative rightly starts recognising that.
"Addressing physical and mental health issues is important and a step in the right direction as it will help tackle some of the major causes of stress at work.
"NHS staff experience some of the highest levels of stress and violence in the country, and this can no longer be tolerated.
"Health unions will be working with employers and NHS England on these issues."