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Wales bans junk food machines in hospitals

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Nurses and patients in Wales will be unable to purchase crisps, chocolate and sugary drinks from hospital vending machines by 2010.

The Welsh Assembly’s decision to ban machines selling unhealthy food from hospitals was announced last week. It follows a report from a group, set up late last year and chaired by the chief nursing officer for Wales, to improve food and drink consumed in hospitals.

A study into hospital vending machines close to paediatric departments in Welsh hospitals found very few offered mostly drinks or food that would be considered healthy.

Linda Bailey, chairperson of the RCN public health forum, said she completely supported the move. ‘If you take Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospital in London, for example, there is a McDonald’s and a cake shop in reception – I think this is appalling,’ she said.

Ms Bailey said further action should include canteen food as well, with healthier food requirements built into the contracts hospitals hold with catering companies.

But Debbie Danitsch, consultant cardiothoracic nurse at University Hospital of North Staffordshire, criticised the ban. ‘I believe that people should have the right to choose what they want to do. If they have been educated about their eating habits they have the right to decide what they want to do,’ she said.

Jacqui Connell, education and development practitioner at Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust, added: ‘It’s a bit excessive and won’t necessarily mean people will buy healthy food – will trusts have to ban all unhealthy food from hospital shops next?’

This year, nurses criticised the Department of Health in England over plans to introduce health checks and lifestyle management plans for nurses. Many described these as ‘nanny state’ actions (NT News, 29 January, p2).

Research from Nottingham University has also suggested that one-third of nurses still smoke on NHS premises.

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