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NHS 'failing to help' obese staff

The NHS is failing to tackle obesity among its own workforce, a report has claimed.

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) and the Faculty of Occupational Medicine study revealed that just 15% of trusts have a policy or plan to help encourage staff to adopt a healthier lifestyle.

The figure was released in the first national audit within the NHS of NICE public health guidance for the workplace, which involved almost 900,000 employees from 282 trusts across England.

The audit came about following the 2009 Boorman Review, which recommended that the health and wellbeing of workers be embedded in the core business of NHS organisations.

The Department of Health estimated in 2009 that of the 1.2 million staff in the NHS, approximately 300,000 would be classified as obese and a further 400,000 as overweight.

But despite the problem facing the NHS, the audit has shown that little is being done to reduce staff obesity.

NICE recommends that employers help employees to be physically active during the working day, but only 32% of the participant organisations said they have a plan or policy in place to encourage and support staff to be more physically active.

Fewer than one in three trusts offered evidence-based weight management programmes for their staff, and just 31% promote healthy options for staff in their shops.

Out of the 42 trusts that did have a plan or policy for tackling staff obesity, only 13 measured uptake of any programmes by different staff groups such as by grade, gender or ethnicity.

Dr Sian Williams, director of the RCP’s Health and Work Development Unit said: “The results are very disappointing. There is a growing body of evidence to prove that employers who look after their employees will see a more efficient workforce.

“Trusts that implement the NICE workplace guidance can expect healthier and more productive staff and better patient outcomes as a result.”

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Readers' comments (2)

  • Thing is that my Trust does have a healthy option choice in the dining room, but it closes for the day at 2pm and the choices after that are a pie shop, the ubiquitous designer coffee outlet which of course is pushing cakes at you.
    There is a staff gym, but to be honest even though I am based nearby I just don't have the time to use it at the beginning or end of the day. So in a way the Trust is doing what is required, but there are still obstacles to the staff accessing it. My exercise regime - such as it is - involves ignoring lifts where I can and moving around the site as much as I can but again this is hit and miss.
    The NICE guidance is - well nice - and well intentioned, but the fact is that the work at hand often conspires to keep us away from what is provided.

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  • One of the best ways to help would be to sort out decent shift patterns so that we (and our bodyclocks) aren't all over the place all of the time!

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