A hospital in Manchester has become the first in the country to cut sugary snacks and fizzy drinks from its restaurant following the success of a staff weight loss scheme.
As a result, from January, the restaurant at Tameside Hospital is swapping snacks and sweets full of sugar for healthier options and the only drinks on the menu for staff and visitors will be tea, coffee, milk, sugar free drinks and water.
And, in a move in line with all Costa outlets in healthcare, the Costa store on site is also cutting down on promoting sugary food and drink, and staff vending machines switched to selling only healthier options and sugar free drinks.
It comes after 100 members of staff took part in a 12-week Slimpod programme commissioned by the Trust’s Chief Executive Karen James because of her concerns about the health and wellbeing of her 4,000 - strong team.
Chief Executive, Karen James, said “My staff work very hard. Long hours and shift patterns often make it very difficult for people to make healthy choices, so they opt for the instant sweet fixes, which until today have been readily available. These are dedicated healthcare professionals who believe they should be role models for their patients but the food environment has been working against them.”
The consultants, midwives, community nurses and medical support secretaries who took part in the programme all reported health improvements and benefits.
By following the clinically proven Slimpod programme, they reduced their portion sizes, ate healthier foods and lost weight. The most successful person on the study lost 13.1kg over the 12 weeks, and one who had been chronically diabetic now has the condition under control.
The news has been welcomed by healthcare professionals, MPs and the staff themselves. Tam Fry, Chair of the National Obesity Forum called the move “trailblazing” while Steve Brine, the Public Health Minister, applauded the hospital for its “forward thinking.”
Karen James believes that to deliver high quality patient care the NHS needs its staff to be healthy, and well at work. She explains: “There is a wealth of evidence to suggest that looking after the health and welfare of our colleagues directly contributes to the delivery of quality patient care.
She said: “The Slimpod programme gently retrains the brain to change how people think and feel about food, enabling them to instinctively choose to eat better, want to eat less and enjoy moving more. As a result of the programme, many of my staff say their behaviour towards food has changed. Snacking has dramatically reduced, and for many it has stopped completely. They say they are sleeping better and are feeling less anxious and stress at work, which can only have a positive effect on the patients.”
Amanda Bromley is the hospital director responsible for staff wellbeing at Tameside. She said: “A recent report revealed one in four NHS nurses is obese and this could be contributing to high staff sickness levels and heaping more pressure on the health service. Obesity related illness is taking an increasing toll on the NHS, as almost half of nurses are over the age of 45. The figures are deeply worrying and long, stressful shifts often made it hard for staff to make healthy choices. I believe by listening to colleagues and being guided by the results of the staff weight loss experiment we are showing that things can change.”
Urgent Care Nurse Luan Walton, 38, says: “So far I’ve lost 20 pounds in 12 weeks. I’ve already dropped a dress size and a half. I’m wearing a smaller uniform and soon will have to replace it with an even smaller one.”
Macmillan cancer nurse Stephanie Ridgeway, 50, says: “My problem was I could be giving advice to my patients about healthy eating with my pockets stuffed with chocolate bars. Now I feel that I’m practising what I preach. I’ve lost 21lbs and I’m a size 10.”
Slimpod founder and weight loss expert Sandra Roycroft-Davis says, “For years people have been calling for the food environment in hospitals to be transformed and I applaud Tameside for leading the way. Good health is dependent on good food choices and when you’re working in an environment full of unhealthy options, it makes it so difficult to change your behaviour and relationship with food. As a member of the All- Party Parliamentary Group for Obesity I will be meeting with Ministers to campaign for the rest of the NHS to follow suit.”