MPs have called on the NHS to play its part in the fight against obesity by banning fast-food outlets from hospitals. Parliament’s Health Select Committee calls for the ban as part of a raft of measures to tackle the growing number of Britons who are becoming dangerously overweight.
Simon Stevens, the Chief Executive of NHS England, backed the MPs’ call and criticised hospitals for permitting the sale of fast food. “The NHS is being pennywise but pound-foolish selling junk food that ultimately just lands more people in hospital with expensive, preventable, obesity-driven illnesses. So as these fast-food concessions come up for renewal, hospitals should demand healthier, tastier, affordable alternatives,” he said.
Coming out in support of Simon Stevens’ statement, HCA National Chair Andy Jones says, “To the HCA the standard of catering in our hospitals is of the highest priority. This ‘crack down’ on unhealthy food fits into a modern healthcare environment, but we don’t see it as ‘our place’ to say that ‘fast-food’ concessions should be banned in hospitals. Rather, what we are saying is that when Trusts do let outlets, they ensure they write into the contract lease agreements that healthy food and drink options must be provided and have to be at the core. Additionally, the popular ‘meal deals’ should be made up of healthy options too.”
As the purveyor of health and wellbeing, the NHS does not do well at promoting a healthy diet and lifestyle. “The HCA has no issue with snacks being offered in restaurants, cafes, vending machines and shops on site, and it does not want to see fizzy drinks stopped (as people will purchase them elsewhere and the Trust will lose income, which often goes back into patient food). However in terms of their positioning, we need to make healthier options easier to see and buy. Sell chocolate bars by all means, but outlaw the duo type bars, and carry biscuits, but in packaging carrying no more than three of the said biscuits, and most certainly, carry no packets or tins and ‘grab-bags’ of sweets/crisps at more than 200gms.”
Looking at the food on offer in the Hospital’s restaurant/cafe-bars, the Association needs to see vegetables and potatoes prepared without being cooked in salt or excess fat. For things like new potatoes, sell them without being covered in butter, but offer butter or low fat spread at the side so the customer can choose to use them, or not. And serve salads naked wherever possible, with accompaniments like coleslaw or pasta salads using low fat dressings only.
In 2009, the Department of Health estimated that of the 1.2 million staff in the NHS, approximately 300,000, would be classified as obese and a further 400,000 as overweight. And in July 2014 we heard all about how ‘bad hospital food is not just a problem for patients – it affects NHS staff too.’ So this crack down on fast food outlets isn’t new.
“But we’d go further,” adds Jones. “I can tell you that we constantly hear about healthy eating; it must be key, as the HCA is always driving it into the NHS culture. Our core stance for Staff and Visitors’ catering, is on ‘HEALTHY EATING’, while patient feeding must be focused on ‘EATING FOR GOOD HEALTH’, and that’s what we are campaigning for.”
As part of a wide-ranging drive to raise standards of hospital food across the UK, the NHS now has mandatory Food Standards across the 4 Nations and hospitals will be ranked on food quality for NHS patients. “So we don’t need to re-invent the wheel,” continues Jones, “rather, we just need to ensure that people adhere to those standards and there needs to be far greater recognition of the nutritional value of food served in hospitals, across the board.”
Committed to the training and development of its Members and the sharing of good practice, ‘Foodmatters’, the HCA’s Leadership & Development Forum 2015, the HCA’s annual flagship 2 day national event and Exhibition, is being held in Glasgow, 16 – 17 April 2015, with a line up of expert Speakers to more than whet the appetite!
‘Foodmatters’ creates the opportunity for the HCA to emphasise that ‘food matters’ in healthcare. Joining us on the Forum stage at the Hilton in Glasgow, we’re delighted to welcome Chef James Martin – ‘Operation Hospital Food’; Science Presenter, ‘Trust me I’m a doctor’, Michael Mosley; Professor Fiona McQueen, Chief Nursing Officer for NHS Scotland and so much more. Plus we hear from our peers working within the industry and from people on the receiving end, such as ‘Cure the NHS’ whistleblower, Julie Bailey CBE and from patients and carers. These personal stories, along with our experts’ informed views and opinion, sharing real life examples of effective and innovative strategies that are making a significant difference, will help to shine a light on the way forward.
And aligned to the theme, the Leadership & Development Forum will consider the impact of the Food Standards plans across the 4 Nations and address the main issues and concerns facing the healthcare community. It is relevant to Catering Managers, Facilities Managers, Dietitians, Chief Executives, Executive Nursing Directors, Clinical Nurse Managers, NHS staff and any supplier to a healthcare organisation. And most importantly, as far as we are concerned, to the patients we serve.
It is clear that people don’t fully understand what ‘healthy eating’ actually means, but hospital caterers have a huge and natural role to play in this re-education process. “To reiterate,” says Jones, “we need the Trusts and the Government to look at the shops on site and apply any changes in the food standards on them as well. And more, the CEOs/Directors of Nursing of NHS Trusts should ensure all their catering managers become Members of the Association, and attend the Forum, to appreciate the full value and benefits that Membership of the Association brings.
“Food is the Best Form of Medicine is the HCA’s strap line, and it underlines our whole ethos. This is why we have stated it’s time for action now. We understand that staff and patient wellbeing is the most powerful driver for change, and that failure to tackle the issue of staff wellbeing may translate into poorer outcomes for patients.”
And it is the HCA who should deliver this, as its Membership represents the professionals who have to provide the food service each day, and so know what is required. Jones concludes, “By following our recommendations, we believe that Hospital Trusts and Commissioners can play a leading role by promoting healthier alternatives and increase competition/innovation among suppliers to drive up quality.”
Andy Jones, HCA National Chair; E: NationalChair@hospitalcaterers.org