Simon Stevens, NHS England’s chief executive, announced last week that NHS employers should offer employees opportunities to keep fit and well, saying it was time for the NHS to ‘get its house in order’ and ‘look after its own’. And quite right. Nurses and other healthcare workers should be able to attend Zumba classes in their lunchbreaks and not be so overworked that they can’t face walking home or going to the gym.
But as one nurse commented on IN’s Facebook page, how many nurses have lunchbreaks in which to attend a Zumba class? It doesn’t seem likely that those in primary care, buckling under the weight of long-term conditions and sick patients, would have time to go to a dance class even if the new edict applied to GP employers too.
However, Mr Stevens is right when he says that healthcare workers have the hardest and most stressful jobs in the country and it is right that employers should support them in improving their own health and wellbeing. They will benefit and be able to support patients better.
Roughly a quarter of all adult men and women are obese. This is shocking. The long-term conditions that result will drain the NHS of what little finance it has and stretch primary care even further. Now is the time for a raft of policies that forces the hands of all employers to follow the NHS’s lead to become partners in improving the workforce’s health, together with other policies targeting all sections of society.
Health promotion messages clearly haven’t worked. Usually against a nanny state approach, I say now is the time to legislate. Use policy levers to make adults and children exercise and drive better health. Improving the nation’s health will alleviate some of the pressure on primary care staff and the NHS.
Rita Som, editor, Independent Nurse