Nurses have rejected calls to introduce financial incentives for improved public health behaviour.
Members of the Royal College of Nursing voted against a resolution today at their annual congress, which called on the union’s council to lobby in favour of moves to offer “financial incentives to be healthy”.
The resolution was proposed by the RCN Suffolk branch, which backed rewards for positive behaviour such as losing weight, taking up exercise or smoking cessation.
Branch members noted that there was evidence that such incentives could work if they were “targeted or time limited”. For example, the Best Fed Babies project in Scotland provided pregnant women with vouchers to encourage better nutrition and 93% of babies were subsequently born at or above normal birth rate.
The branch also highlighted that the college had previously backed “financial disincentives” to change behaviour, such as minimum unit pricing for alcohol.
Suffolk member Sandra Gover, who proposed the motion, said that even if the idea only helped “some people” it should be worth considering.
However, 93% of delegates voted against it, while only 7% were in favour.
Jennifer Aston, chair of the RCN advanced nurse practitioner forum, was against the resolution. She acknowledged that “money can motivate” but said “education is much more effective”.
Student member Stephen Walton added that he was also against the idea, based on his previous experience as a healthcare assistant working with patients who were drug or alcohol dependent.
“I know lots of people who would take the money, stop for the week, and then start again,” he said.