Healthy hospital getting a grip on obesity crisis
With the UK suffering an obesity epidemic an NHS hospital in east Manchester is making sure its staff and patients can eat nutritious meals
DRASTIC measures have been taken to tackle obesity at a hospital by getting staff to lead by example – removing fizzy drinks and sugary snacks from vending machines and delivering healthy meals to those stuck on wards and in clinics.
A report is being sent to Health Secretary Matt Hancock and the idea could be rolled out across the NHS. Tameside General Hospital, which serves 250,000 people in east Manchester, was the first to ban sugary drinks and even has a regular farmers’ market with fresh local produce.
The local population is among the poorest and unhealthiest in the UK with high obesity rates. The hospital’s 4,000 staff, who work long shifts with little opportunity to eat properly, struggle to stay healthy and admit they set a bad example to the public.
Chief executive Karen James, a former nurse, said: “Staff say they are telling patients to eat healthier and take exercise but they are not really heeding their own advice and they feel dreadful about that.
“Our staff are part of the community and people look to them for advice and support but if they don’t look or feel healthy then they are not in a good position to help others. These are dedicated professionals who believe they should be role models but the food environment at the hospital has been working against them.”
THE UK is in the grip of an obesity epidemic that claims 30,000 lives a year, deprives people of nine years of life and costs the NHS more than £6.1billion a year, while a survey by the Royal College of Nursing reported that 25 per cent of nurses were obese.
“We have to make it easier for them to do the right things and lead by example,” says James, whose changes have included cutting the number of vending machines and banning sugary drinks and snacks in the remaining ones, healthier food in the canteen and offering to deliver meals to busy staff around the hospital.
It also paid for 100 staff to go on a weight loss programme and is trying to reshape shift patterns so they have time to eat healthily rather than making do with sandwiches, crisps, chocolate and treats brought in by grateful patients and their relatives.
The changes have seen staff achieve transformative weight loss and experts believe the success will help the local population heed advice about their health and weight. The project will be featured on Channel 4 tonight.
“Unfit and unhealthy nurses are a cause for concern,” adds James. “A lot of our nurses come from EAT WELL: Fresh local food at Tameside Hospital where sugary vending machine products, inset, are out within our community so, with increasing demand and admissions, we have to turn the model on its head to say: how can we prevent ill health and how can we promote health and well-being?
“Staff say that sometimes they know they are not fit but they are talking to patients and telling them to eat healthier, keep their diabetes under control and exercise more – yet they are not really taking their own advice.
“We know that nurses, and other staff, do long shifts and it can be difficult to get off the wards to eat the right things. We also have lots of patients and relatives who thank staff by bringing cakes and chocolates so that type of food is often around.
“We have to give them the opportunity to keep healthy.”
Tam Fry, chief of the National Obesity Forum believes the Tameside template should be replicated around the NHS. “I’m fully supportive. Many hospitals have
kevin loses 2 stone with slimpod
KEVIN Morris put on weight after a shoulder injury at 26 cut short his sporting activities. The 6ft former porter and theatre assistant, married with two children, saw his weight balloon to more than 19 stone as he struggled to eat healthily while working long shifts.
“The weight piled on. I tried all the diets but I lose interest if I don’t lose weight quickly,” he says. “I was virtually addicted to crisps and could eat five packets a day no problem. I sometimes got through 11 packets because they are so convenient. “But the weight became an increasing problem as I couldn’t do a great deal.” Kevin, 50, from Mossley who works in the hospital’s plaster room, tried the Slimpod system, which uses a nine-minute daily message to help users lose weight and reframe their approach to food. Kevin added: “I was a bit sceptical at first because I have tried so many fad diets but this is really working and I’ve lost more than two stone.” lots of vending machines that are full of junk but sometimes they are the only option for staff with little time. “Hospital staff are role models so it is important to support them to be fit for the job. I hope other hospitals follow this lead.” Orthopaedic practitioner Kevin Morris, 50, ditched his habit of munching through 11 packets of crisps a day and lost two stone.
“I live in a three-storey house and had to have a rest after the first flight,” says Kevin, whose weight peaked at 19.5 stone before he started on the Slimpod weight loss programme when it was offered by the hospital in June. “I’d got that big a few years back that my daughter Lucy wanted me to go on a diet so she could get her arms round me to give me a hug.”
The Department of Health and Social Care said: “We are committed to improving health through our Long Term Plan for the NHS and this is a great example of how employers can do their part to help staff be healthier. “The Government is determined to promote the benefits of good nutrition and regular exercise to help patients live longer, healthier and happier lives.”
How To Lose Weight Well, Channel 4, 8pm tonight
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