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Obesity 'not tackled' by NHS trusts

A report has suggested that just 15% of NHS trusts have implemented plans or policy to get to grips with staff obesity.

The call came from the Royal College of Physicians and the Faculty of Occupational Medicine under the first NHS audit of NICE public health guidance for the workplace.

In 2009, Department of Health figures estimated that around 300,000 of 1.2 million NHS workers were obese, with a further 400,000 overweight.

Despite these figures, the new audit, involving almost 900,000 employees from 282 trusts across England, reveals that little is being done to tackle the problem.

The audit was recommended by the Boorman Review in 2009, which highlighted the importance of making staff health and wellbeing central to the NHS.

According to NICE, employers should work with their staff to help them exercise during their working day. However, just 32% of organisations polled had introduced plans to help staff do this.

Evidence-based weight-management schemes were offered by fewer than one in three trusts, and healthy options were only promoted in 31% of shops.

Dr Sian Williams, Director of the RCP's Health and Work Development Unit, said: "Patients expect health professionals to practice what they preach and trusts need to implement the best management practices to maintain the health of their staff."

Copyright © Press Association 2011

Royal College of Physicians

Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

"I totally disagree with Ms Beach. I have been overweight for most of my life and exercise, zumba and gym/swim x5 hours per week religiously, undertook NHS health check, with a cholesterol of 3.5 mmols and HDL 1.96. I don't see a problem. In 19 months not a drop of weight has been lost. I have a very healthy diet and sit and watch my 'slimmer' colleagues stuff
their faces with junk food and not a word is said against this. It is not as simple as victim blaming. I have had one week sick leave in seven years, and that was for bereavement. Obesity is a chronic condition and a complex one. I disagree with the remarks that you need to be slimmer to give weight management advice. You need to know the person and
check in to their psyche to see if they are ready to change. This week should be named let's do the fat bashing week 'cos that's all I've heard!" - Maureen Johnstone, North East 

"Yes, you can't be a role model to patients if you are overweight and there are other issues such as sickness rates with overweight staff. Doesn't this essentially cost the NHS more in the long run (agency staff covering)?" - Janine Beach, Manchester

"I agree that staff need supporting to tackle obesity issues.  I work within health promotion which doesn't always mean I'm inspired enough to do all the correct things. I too could benefit from support around diet and exercise. Which I feel would help me improve my own health and wellbeing enabling me to extend this to people I work with, family and friends too" - Joan Farnworth, Bolton

"Yes it should be tackled but the question is how? I agree with Dr Williams about patients' expectations of health professionals and I have to confess to feeling uncomfortable with the public image of obese nurses at all levels in our profession. I'm in favour of a preventive approach. In some GP practices where I've worked there is an ethos of 'healthy workplace' exemplified by: pleasant sitting room, well-stocked basket of
free fruit, encouragement of individual staff members to participate in active pursuits (charity fun runs, treks, team sports, cycle to work etc). The main driver is usually a GP and the benefits are felt through the whole practice. All NHS employers in acute and primary care settings can as a minimum promote healthy options for their staff. I am less in favour of NHS funds supporting free weight management courses for individual staff" - Catherine Gleeson, West Yorkshire

"I think it is essential that staff obesity is highlighted and this is especially relevant in General Practice. We are often the first health professional a patient will discuss disease prevention and wellbeing promotion. The message is likely to be received better from a healthy clinician. Finding time in a busy surgery to focus on your own fitness can be a challenge. Innovative examples of support and fitness packages for staff need to be put at they top of an employers agenda. Lessons from the
private sector can be learned in the NHS" - Jo Justice, West Sussex