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Pressure drives unhealthy diets among nurses, finds survey

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Many nurses skip meals and rely on unhealthy snacks and sugar fixes to get them through long shifts, according to a new poll.

The snapshot survey of 250 doctors and nurses, published by the Royal Voluntary Service (RVS), found nearly one in five admit to having a poor diet, regularly consuming cakes, chocolate, crisps and fizzy drinks to keep them going.

”It’s important the food and drink options for hospital staff and visitors are healthy and nutritious”

Kate Bull

Eighty per cent said they regularly skipped meals and about half – 49% – said they simply “grab what they can, when they can” due to the pressures of work.

The RVS, which runs hospital cafes, shops and trolley services, is among the largest hospital retailers in England, Scotland and Wales.

The findings were published ahead of the charity’s plans to revamp its services to ensure they offer more healthy options in an initiative supported by NHS England and the chef Jamie Oliver.

The research, which involved 116 nurses and 134 doctors working in the NHS, found nurses were more likely to say their diet at work was “very poor” and report that it had got worse in the past year.

More than a third of nurses – 35% – said they survived on just one proper meal a day.

“It doesn’t make sense that there’s such a poor choice… in a place where people are supposed to be getting better”

Jamie Oliver

Meanwhile, more than half – 52% – of all the clinicians surveyed said there were not many healthy options in the hospitals where they worked, with 17% noting an increase in fast food outlets on hospital premises.

Under its Healthy Choices initiative, the RVS has committed to introducing new menus and healthy, nutritious food in the more than 500 services it runs.

A flagship new-look cafe has already launched this month at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital in Dorset, with a revamped shop set to open at Western General Hospital in Edinburgh.

The roll-out of the programme is expected to be complete by March next year.

“Workforce health is a major priority for NHS England and it’s important the food and drink options for hospital staff and visitors are healthy and nutritious,” said Kate Bull, executive director of retail at RVS.

“This is why we are revising the products we offer in hospitals in our cafes, shops and on our trolleys to make sure there is plenty of choice available,” she said.

“We are committed to ensuring hospital staff and visitors have their pick of delicious, freshly-prepares meals and snacks using local and seasonal produce – even when in a rush,” she added.

Royal Voluntary Service

Pressure drives unhealthy diets among nurses, finds survey

Source: Matt Russell

Jamie Oliver

Responding to the initiative, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said he would like more hospital retailers to do the same.

“It’s great to see one of the biggest NHS hospital retails taking clear action,” he said. “Others must now follow the RVS’s lead, do the responsible thing and provide more tasty, healthy and affordable alternatives.”

Jamie Oliver, who has campaigned for healthy food in other public sector settings including schools, said the move had his support.

“When it comes to food on offer in hospitals, it doesn’t make sense that there’s such a poor choice and so many vending machines in a place where people are supposed to be getting better, not unhealthier,” he said.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • It is true that food outlets within hospitals are not great but people make excuses for eating rubbish. One can always take healthy food to work to eat during breaks (or when it is possible to take a break).
    Overall, it's very difficult trying to change the fundamental habits of people, after all, don't we see plenty of doctors and nurses smoking at the entrances of hospitals? It's also interesting to note that staff who smoker will usually find time off the ward to indulge in this.

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