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NHS should have 'targets' to reduce staff obesity

There is “inadequate” provision to treat obese patients in the NHS and staff themselves should be given dietary advice, according to a report.

Medical experts said the healthcare system must adapt to meet the needs of “bulging Britain” after the new report found that services to manage obesity are “poorly developed”.

Even though the rate of obesity in the UK is among the highest in the world, the health service’s response to the problem is “patchy”, according to the Royal College of Physicians report.

The report, titled Action on obesity: Comprehensive care for all, also claimed that too many doctors and nurses were seriously overweight and setting a bad example to the people they are trying to treat.

About a quarter of UK adults are obese and it is estimated that the majority of the population will be obese by 2050.

The cost of dealing with the problem has been estimated to be £5bn every year - a figure which will rise alongside the number of obese Britons.

In many patients, their obesity leads to other complications such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, sleep disorders and gynaecological disorders, the authors said. But despite this there are few “joined-up” services for people who are overweight.

The authors recommend a “systematic review” of specialist obesity services. They said that multi-disciplinary teams made up of physicians, surgeons, nurses and other health professionals must be available to cover severe and complex obesity throughout the UK.

They said there should be a lead physician for obesity at each hospital, and called for better training for NHS staff and more research into obesity.

The government should appoint an independent obesity champion to co-ordinate strategy across ministerial departments which could be involved in tackling the epidemic, the authors continued.

They added that education in obesity and nutrition is “inadequately represented” in current medical education, which should be addressed.

It is estimated that 700,000 NHS employees are obese, but only 15% are seen or assessed.

The report said that an audit of London primary care trusts showed that few had policies targeting broad health issues, with workplace health initiatives tending to be reactive and concentrating on recovery after illness rather than actively promoting health and wellbeing.

It wants this to be changed and said doctors and nurses should be given dietary advice and there should be clear targets for reducing obesity among staff.

Professor John Wass, academic vice-president of the RCP, said: “Britain is getting bigger and whilst we try to prevent the increase in obesity, we must also prepare the NHS for the influx of patients presenting with severe complex obesity.

“A patient may arrive at my hospital with coronary heart disease, but if the root cause of their condition is obesity, we must be equipped to deal with that root cause.”

Professor Nick Finer, co-author of the report and obesity specialist, said: “We need to see improved leadership on obesity at every level, from the appointment of a lead physician in every trust to the creation of a cross-governmental role.”

Professor Lindsey Davies, president of the UK’s Faculty of Public Health, said: “The only way we will ever tackle the problems caused by obesity is by everyone working together.

“Obesity is not only caused by how much we each eat or drink: if tackling it were as simple as telling people to eat less and move more, we would have solved it by now.

“Our chances of being obese are also affected by factors like whether we have easy access to affordable fruit, veg and other healthy foods, and if it is safe to let our kids play outside.

“That’s why if governments focus on personal choice alone it is, at best, a red herring and, at worst, a dereliction of duty for everyone’s health.”

Robert Houtman, trustee of the Obesity Management Association, said: “There is an urgent need to address this ever-increasing cost to our society.

“Rather than an over-reliance on the creaking NHS, individuals must take personal responsibility for their own weight.”

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “We are committed to tackling obesity and are taking action to help people keep a healthy weight and prevent them needing hospital care for obesity-related conditions.

“The medical profession has a key role in providing advice and treatment to people who are overweight or obese and the Royal College of Physicians can help its members do this.”


Do you want to learn more about obesity management? Learn online with our training course on Obesity - an introduction to management in adults today.


Readers' comments (17)

  • michael stone

    But despite this there are few “joined-up” services for (add your own ending) !

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  • tinkerbell

    despite all our education as a nation we appear to be becoming more stupid. We are always a few years behind America.

    Can the NHS really challenge the big food giant industries/media who promote obesity.

    McDonalds, 'do you want to go large?' I normally do because it's only 49p more when i was last asked.

    Buy one get one free. How's about just having one half price?

    Walk through the doors of the supermarket and most of the food produced has had all the goodness sucked out of it for mass production. It's not just 5 a day you need but 25 a day to compensate for the fact that most fruit and veg have no goodness left in them anymore.

    Low fat products with high sugar content to make up for the bland taste.

    Margarine which the body can't process and even a dog would refuse to lick the lid of that.

    Why wait until someone presents with obsesity, go to the source and target people in the shopping ailes or down at the local McDonalds/pizza/kebab etc etc.,

    Fizzy drinks and alcohol. Why aren't alcohol adverts banned on TV? They promote happy people having a friendly drink but the reality is binge britain draining the overstretched resources of A&E on a friday/saturday night.

    Leaflets could be handed out at supermarkets and food emporiums. Supermarkets could be zoned into 'green' good for you and 'red' warning areas.

    What a riot that will cause.

    The children brought up in an environment of over indulgence don't know any better and these are the ones who need to have the information for their future well being, go into the schools and educate the more receptive youngsters, who haven't had all their senses dulled yet, because it seems that most so called 'adults' can no longer think for themselves and presented with a wealth of health education and advice will just basically do what they want to do, as we mostly all do.

    You can lead a horse to water but ................

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  • Though some nurses are overweight, I think it just reflects society. Society is just shoving more and more crap down their collective cake holes. When things go bad, heart attacks, diabetes, and ca of the bowel etc. They want the NHS to fix it. Many have no intention of changing their habits. We've been pushing health promotion for years. It invariably falls on deaf ears. Some patients just laugh at the suggestion.

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  • Look, that's not fair.
    How can our beloved nurses expect to keep slim, when they have no choice but to sit down at the nurses station, writing notes, and chatting to each other all shift?
    Happy new year.

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  • And are they going to set targets for the smokers, and recreational drinkers and drug users also?I personally would prefer to be nursed by a someone a bit overweight than someone reeking of booze or fags, or hungover !

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  • Ok I'm overweight! I dont smoke or drink, I eat healthily - if a little too much. I go to the Gym 3xweekly and swim. Im fitter than most of my colleagues - even at 55.
    Oh I also have severe degeneration in my spine but havent had a day off with back pain - todays recommendation is exercise for back pain.
    I've just done a full days work with 1.5 hours unpaid overtime in the NHS. The planned half hour lunch break became 5 mins sandwich cram as I covered for a colleague's leave today and there is no backfill for leave of any sort. I'm in my 36th year as a full time Nurse and not once has anyone complained about my weight.
    The patients I have seen today have long term conditions, none are overweight - quite the opposite and didnt care that I am a little heavy! The 30 stone patient I was caring for last year swore he lived on salads, despite being challenged about the pizza boxes. The first step to helping anyone is for the person to accept they need to do something to improve their health, then we can be agood role model/help in a beneficial way. Being thin and telling people they are at health risk due to obesity isnt working!
    I'm honest, human and mostly appreciated by patients. I also understand how difficult some things are to achieve.

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  • A visit to an NHS OPD will confirm there are many "wobbley" nurses. The flab also extends to many wards! Are these the nurses who are "run of their feet"?

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  • not just nurses, doctors too and mine had egg down the front of his white t-shirt!

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  • Many of us dont work in Hospitals, try climbing 13 floors of stairs when lift broken down - even if overweight! And No I dont need Oxygen at the top!

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  • michael stone

    'tinkerbell | 2-Jan-2013 12:29 pm

    despite all our education as a nation we appear to be becoming more stupid'

    I'm not 100% sure about that - an alternative explanation is that as you yourself get older (40+ I suspect), you start to increasingly notice 'how mad the world is'.

    I will admit, that the US seems to be a bit ahead of us in the stupidity stakes, but they would probably claim I'm wrong: the dreaded 'perspective issues' !

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  • I can't be askd to respond to this as I'm too busy stuffing my cakehole with cake.

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  • Obesity is not a nurse problem it is a country wide problem. THe NHS has tried education aimed at all but how much success have they had in curtailing this problem ? We live in a country where there is a universal net that catches us when ever we succumb to the effects of our follies....... food drink drugs . Go and live in a country with no NHS and you will see the difference.
    Do we limit the services we offer to fat people ? No bariatric surgery ? Its a very expensive operation with a very questionable success rate. Do we say you cannot have your surgery unless you lose an amount of weight ?
    Double size wheel chairs are now common along with operating tables for those over 30 stone.
    The NHS is playing along with the whole obesity problem but not saying NO . You cant be treated until you reduce.
    How can we show the general public and nurses ! that fat is not pretty , comfortable, expensive...all those enormous clothes , squashed shoes, sore feet aching legs , breathlessness , inablitly to sit in the chair etc ?
    WIthout looking at and solving the fat image perception we are not going to get anywhere .

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  • The cause of growing obesity is more than the food people buy and eat, its too easy to blame the food manufacturers and adverts. Many individuals comfort eat due to their ability to cope with stress and mental well being. The estimated 30% rise in prescription painkillers and c.32,000 painkiller addicts in Britain is another cog in the same wheel.Yes bad eating habits do tend to pass down generations, but we need a more holistic approach and the full picture of why people over eat.

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  • Obesity is a nationwide problem true but perhaps nurses aren't helped by irregular meal breaks or more often than not no meal break which is often as not substituted by junk food in the guise of crisps,chocolate bars et al. often on the run

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  • There is nothing worse than seeing a nurse trying to waddle around, it just doesn't look right in a 'health' environment. It's like David Cameron dressing like Frank Gallagher WRONG and sends out completely the wrong message and totally hypocritical.

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  • what about the Police then there's a few overweight ones there and in the Town where I work McDonalds always seems to have a cop car parked outside. Or is this just another stick to beat the NHS with?

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  • I am overweight and I certainly do not waddle! Obviously the people writing most of these comments are skinny gym addicts! I anyone bothered to do their research they would know that it has been shown that it is better to be overweight than underweight, healthwise. And that skinny people can and do have sttrokes, heart attacks, etc etc.

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