Tameside Hospital has swapped all confectionery for healthier options and the only drinks available for staff and visitors are tea, coffee, milk and water. Vending machines will soon switch to selling only healthier options.
Tam Fry, Chair of the National Obesity Forum, yesterday welcomed the move which he called “trailblazing.” The ban follows calls from NHS England urging hospitals to slash sales of sugary drinks.
One hundred staff at the hospital started a weight loss programme in the summer at the same time sugar-packed desserts were taken off the menu for a trial period. Now they have been removed permanently.
The “Slimpod” weight loss programme was commissioned by the trust’s chief executive Karen James because of her concerns about the health and wellbeing of her 4,000-strong team.
She 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 now 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.“
Ninety per cent of the consultants, midwives, community nurses and medical support secretaries who took part in the project reported their biggest problem at work was snacking.
By following the Slimpod programme, they said they had naturally reduced their portion sizes, chose to eat healthier foods and lost weight.
The most successful person on the study lost 2 stone over the 12 weeks, and one who had been chronically diabetic is about to come off her medication.
Amanda Bromley, the hospital director responsible for staff wellbeing at Tameside, 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.”
Miss James says that to deliver high quality patient care the NHS needs its staff to be healthy, and well at work.
She explained: “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.
“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 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.”
Urgent Care Nurse Luan Walton, 38, said: “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 Ridgway, 50, said: “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 said: “Good health is dependent on good food choices and when you’re working in an environment full of unhealthy options, people need help to change their behaviour and relationship with food. Working together with the hospital we have achieved this and 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.”