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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.

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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.

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  • 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

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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?

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  • 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.

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  • what is a meal break?

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  • Florence

    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.

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