By continuing to use the site you agree to our Privacy & Cookies policy

Your browser seems to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser.


Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.


Overweight nursing and medical staff should slim, says NHS chief

Junk food could be off the menu in hospital canteens as overweight doctors and nurses are encouraged to slim down to set a good example to patients.

Burgers and chips will be swapped for healthier options and staff will be able to take part in weight-loss competitions under plans being considered by NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens, The Sun newspaper has reported.

“It’s hard for the NHS to talk about how important this is if we don’t get our own act together”

Simon Stevens

Around 700,000 of the NHS’s 1.3 million staff are either overweight or obese, the newspaper claims, and Mr Stevens wants to introduce incentives for them to lose weight.

More gyms are to be built and NHS sites will become increasingly cycle friendly, while prizes such as pedometers will be on offer for staff who shed the pounds.

Mr Stevens said the rising obesity epidemic of recent years was bad both for people’s health and for the health service itself, and tackling obesity would put less pressure on the nation’s finances and would free up funding for new treatments.

Recent figures show that almost three quarters of people aged 45 to 74 in England are either overweight or obese.

Young adults are the only age group who have a normal average body mass index, according to the Health and Social Care Information Centre.

The NHS is facing a funding crisis and senior health figures have said it may need an extra £30 billion by 2020 to maintain the current level of service provision.

Simon Stevens

Simon Stevens

Promising to tackle the obesity problem, Mr Stevens told The Sun: “It’s hard for the NHS to talk about how important this is if we don’t get our own act together. I think the NHS has got to take an example in helping our own staff and hopefully other employers will follow suit.

“A lot of the food in hospital canteens, not just for patients, but for staff, is chips and burgers. The NHS as an employer, for our own nurses and other staff, could we offer positive incentives? Yes, I think we could. And some hospitals have begun doing that.”

Mr Stevens also called on parents to help keep their children healthy by swapping juices and fizzy drinks during meal times for water or milk.

Looking to the future, he said that further progress in technology would keep patients out of hospital as people live longer, and he wants greater partnership between the NHS and social services.

He said: “What’s great about the NHS can’t excuse what needs to change about the NHS. That is the approach that we have got to take.

“We’ve got to support people doing great things, nurses, doctors, the frontline of healthcare,” he said. “But we’ve also got to raise our game.”

He also called for thousands more GPs to be trained, and wants to give them more power to make decisions about how NHS money is spent.


What do you think of this scheme?

Should NHS staff be offered incentives to lose weight?

Share your views in the comments section below and join us on twitter at 1pm to debate this story live with the NT team and nursing twitter community.

Follow #NTtwitchat to join in and use this hashtag in all your tweets.

Readers' comments (40)

  • Its very rarely that I have time to go to the staff canteen to eat lunch. But I wouldn't expect these people to know that.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • I hope he is not putting himself at risk carrying a very fat wallet...
    Many staff have to manage on low pay and healthy eating is not a cheap option

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • It is time the NHS recognised the cause of many people's weight gain and modified their advice on weight loss, accordingly. The NHS promotes whole grains as healthy - and yet there is a whole school of thought which says that this is the precise reason we are all much heavier than we would like to be - and hence the reason of the diabetes and heart disease epidemic. No good just saying lose weight, without giving the wherewithal to accomplish it.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • There are no doubt going to be a lot of indignant replies to this. The fact remains that we are responsible for our own health and diet and it costs no more to eat healthily than it does to eat junk. And we really do need to try and set an example. It's no good telling somebody not to smoke whilst waving a fag around and in the same way, how dare we tell patients to lose weight if we are obese ourselves? Admittedly it can be hard to motivate ourselves to exercise, but the secret of that is in finding something active that we enjoy - not because we need the exercise but because we enjoy the activity - then the exercise will come incidentally. Nothing is more boring than having to traipse off to the gym after work. I don't think providing facilities is the answer. As for staff canteens (an expensive option) - they could start immediately by not providing desserts (except as a treat at the weekend, or something). They could certainly serve less stodge. Perhaps they should offer less choice, to encourage us to bring in our own lunches & suppers. Ten minutes spent preparing our own food is less time-consuming than walking to and queueing up in the canteen.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • I cannot remember the last time i visited the canteen. Also I can't afford to go there, and I never have the time. So who are these nurses eating in the canteens? I think if you work on a ward, and you have brought something to eat, and you have the time, you eat in the staff room.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • i agree with Jill , many people indignant but he is right. Who wants to be cared for by an obese nurse or doctor? one only needs to go to an RCN Congress and you are shocked at the amount of overweight nurses.

    How can nurses advise others when they are unable to address their own weight. We must accept we have a problem in the UK and this we witnessed in the USA many years sooner.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • Charming comment - "who wants to be cared for by an obese nurse or doctor". Very judgemental. Surely the quality of care given is more important?

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • Jacket potato with cheese - 3.40 in our canteen. It is the equivalent of 2 good quality loafs of bread!... And ..half an hour of my work.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • what is a meal break?

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • Pussy

    We may be offended,angry and hurt but sorry to say there's a lot of fat nurses about. See for yourselves-it's difficult to miss. It's unpalatable but true.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • Why are there more obese NHS staff now than, say, 25 years ago?
    Ah, I think I have an idea or three..... Take a 40 bedded ward with, ideally 4/5 staff on a shift (2 qualified); every patient to be seen and spoken to, given bath/shower/bedbath daily, every bed to be stripped off and remade with clean linen before lunch, dressings, medicine rounds, observations, toileting, relatives to talk to, trips to Xray/physio/OT arranged and some pts accompanied by nurses...... shall I go on? Add admissions and discharges emergencies, consultants rounds and mealtimes and I think you may get the picture! We had no time to become obese!

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • I feel really strongly that we are all responsible for what we eat and how much we move. Unfortunately some people lack the motivation to eat healthy or exercise. If the NHS want to put systems in place to promote and facilitate health etc great but equally they need to be realistic about the constant and frequently unachievable demands staff are dealing with. Better staffing levels, more resources and a less stressed workforce might help people have the focus and energy to get healthy and fit.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • I carry my own healthy food as I cannot afford to pay for the food in the canteen and I only get 30 minutes unpaid break, if I walk to the canteen 15 minutes will be spent getting there and back so only 15 minutes to sit down that is if I do not have to wait too long to be served. The rest of the shift I am on my feet doing a large volume of mental and physical work.
    It is when I get home from work I pig out to unwind.
    I have noticed that when the ward is better staffed, I am less stressed and so I actually eat better.
    For me stress is a direct result of me putting on weight.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • Anonymous | 30-Jul-2014 9:53 pm - ditto!

    I don't think it can be underestimated what impact the stress has on our bodies in so many ways. It affects our relationship with food in the sense that certain foods are a comfort and are an instant energy rush. But stress slows our metabolism as well as reach for the wrong foods. On top of that the shift work and long days without breaks makes it incredibly difficult to eat routinely and exercise regularly. I suspect not many if us use the canteens but it's bloody easy to gobble those biscuits sitting in the staff room or chocolates at the nurses station!!

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • Stress contribute to being overweight. Instead of building gyms and all that, get more staff in so that there is less stress.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • another stick to beat nurses about , DM once again singles out nurses

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • Wonder how many of the Mid Staff nurses were obese?

    Wouldn't it be interesting to know the ratio of sickness relating to obese and non-obese? My [anecdotal] experience is the non-obese are sick more and therefore less reliable placing more pressure on the reliable obese.

    Quagmire Mr Stevens, quagmire.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • Eating healthily isn't as cheap as eating non-healthily.

    Cheap supermarkets are vital, but the farming is fast reducing e.g. anti-oxidant potential of fruit and vegetables as they grow without the necessary sunlight for their goodness to develop.

    Growth stimulants in animal farming? Not all found in convenience food.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • I agree and disagree with this. Some patients have expressed that they wouldn't feel empowered if a slim nurse told them to loose weight as they felt they lacked understanding. Not all patients will feel like they need to loose weight because there nurse is slim. Being overweight or obese isn't healthy however for some people its harder to loose weight especially when you work long shifts with minimal time to eat without feeling rushed. I think there needs to be more positive and encouraging support instead of simply labelling people obese or overweight and telling them to lose weight alone.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • michael stone

    Who could have guessed, that this one would have comments flooding in ?

    Unsuitable or offensive?

View results 10 per page | 20 per page | 50 per page

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment.

Related Jobs

Sign in to see the latest jobs relevant to you!