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NHS workers urged to count calories

Overweight NHS staff who preach healthy eating to patients should lose weight themselves, according to the Department of Health.

A report entitled Healthy Weight, Healthy Lives: One Year On says that 300,000 of the 1.2m NHS workers are likely to be fat, and 400,000 overweight.

It cites midwives, health visitors and nurses who will now be encouraged to set a good example when lecturing the public on its state of health.

The report says: "The NHS, schools and local authorities all have an important role to play, not only in the services they provide for the public but also in looking after their employees' health and wellbeing.

"In addition, the credibility of health messages is also supported by the behaviour of health professionals, for example in the reduction and current low levels of smoking among doctors.

"We therefore need to prioritise how to best improve the health and wellbeing of NHS staff, with an initial focus on nurses, midwives and health visitors."

It adds: "Over the next year, we will develop bespoke programmes to support achieving and maintaining a healthy weight for key frontline staff who advise and interact with children and families on obesity, such as maternity staff, midwives, health visitors and school nurses."

Copyright © Press Association 2009

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"Who wants an obese health attendant leaning on them huffing and puffing and hardly able to walk risking their own health..? It's easier to pack it on and it's easier to make excuses too. Make a plan to be healthy and this will encourage patients to do the same. Don't bring high calorie cakes to work to share. Bring veggies, low calorie chips and dips and fruit and fat-free topping. This comment is not meant to criticize but to encourage. It's all about taking care of ourselves and setting an example. Work as hard to get healthy as you did to get your nursing degree and you will have the same feeling of accomplishment." - Pegan, USA

"Healthy diets are not filling. Nurses miss meal breaks and grab unhealthy snacks to replenish low glucose levels just to keep
up with the pace. Fat nurses who are honest with their patients, admitting they are fat, empathise more. I have heard consultant physicians with asthma admit they forget to use their preventer and often over use their reliever. This is not criticised, I do not hear other surrounding Drs say that's not helpful. Nurses who are fat can be more effective in engaging pts, agreeing how hard it is to exercise and eat healthily when you get home at 10 pm. They can also admit what it's doing to their self-esteem and affecting their health. Many fat nurses are
good role models because they know how fantastic it is to lose 1 kilo, give up snacking, and how their own health has improved by trying and drawing a line under a relapse. Keep on trying. Save me from the slim dietitian, nurse, they have never been fat and only see the pts for a short time. Fat nurses are
short of breath, joints hurt when climbing stairs, BP rises, sex & pregnancy can be a problem." - Carl Curtis, London

"Yes! As professional nurses, we can only give to our clients what we have or else we turn ourselves into a laughing stock while trying to give advice on what we are guilty of. It is like the case of the blind leading the blind. Nurses are expected to be good role models. Many nurses have turned the advice they give to their clients on obesity and chain smoking into a case of 'do I say but dont do as I do' and this is a disgrace to our noble
profession." - Roseline Bella, Newham

"I agree with the comments by Carl. As an overweight person, I understand how difficult it is to follow the advice. I talk with my patients about ways to make improvements and they know I mean it when I empathise with them. I know I would prefer not to have a skinny little thing tell me to eat less and exercise more, and I think most of my patients are the same" – Janet C, North West

"I do feel that healthcare professionals offering advice and support on healthy living should also follow their own advice  and not smoke, but also to maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle" – Karen Wade, Worcestershire

"Yes, I would agree with the report. We as healthcare practitioners need to set a good example to the service users we are advising and informing. If we do not, then it's like the old adage: "Don't do as I do, do as I say ..." I have always disagreed with having nurses who smoke because it's rather unpleasant for patients to have a nurse care for them reeking of smoke" – Yvonne Howie, Kilmarnock

"I have always wondered how the patient felt while being advised on healthy living when confronted by an obese health professional; the same applies to those who smoke." - Heather Francis, Hertfordshire

"Yes I do agree, many of the nurses I work with or know are obese" - Maria Fuller