More than half of the NHS’s 1.3 million staff are either obese or overweight, as the organisation looks to ban unhealthy food from its hospitals.
700,000 out of 1.3 million (54%) NHS staff are estimated to be overweight, with 300,000 of those being classified as obese (the national average is 1 in 4). Such figures, known for a while, have been highlight again as the NHS looks to remove unhealthy snacks, such as ‘super-sized’ chocolate bars, from its hospitals.
Simon Stevens, NHS Chief Executive, said: ‘The NHS is now stepping up action to combat the ‘supersized’ snack culture which is causing an epidemic of obesity, preventable diabetes, tooth decay, heart disease and cancer.
‘In place of calorie-laden, sugary snacks we want to make healthier food an easy option for hospital staff, patients and visitors.’
NHS England has said that all sweets and chocolate sold should be under 250 calories and 80% of drinks stocked must contain less than 5g of added sugar per 100ml. The plans would also see three-quarters of pre-packaged sandwiches sold to be under 400 calories.
The NHS currently spends around £16 billion on treating obesity related conditions (that’s more than is spent on the police or fire service) and hospital diagnosis of obesity increased ten-fold in between 2001/02 and 2011/12.
Mr Stevens said: ‘We will be implementing these new guidelines and are hopeful that they will result in healthier food being a more consistent feature in all hospital retailers.’
All NHS trusts are awarded a share of the £150 million health and wellbeing fund if they meet targets such as providing healthier food and reducing the levels of staff sickness.
Andrew Robert, business managers at the Royal Voluntary service, which runs shops in hospital wards, has introduced a Healthier Choices programme. He said it was ‘having a significant effect on consumer behaviour’ and that ‘In the first quarter of 2017, year-on-year sales of fruit increased by 25%, healthier chilled snacks like salad and sushi by 55% and healthier sweet and savoury snacks like popcorn and dried fruit by 109%.’
Tam Fry, from the National Obesity Forum, thinks that the government has not gone far enough in only banning 80% of sugary drinks: ‘Sugar is the new tobacco, ban it.’