Visions for vending at the NHS

Improving the health and wellbeing of NHS staff is a priority for the NHS and a new three-part indicator will focus on getting staff better access to health and wellbeing initiatives, supporting them to make healthy choices and lead healthy lives.

Estimates from Public Health England put the cost to the NHS of staff absence due to poor health at £2.4 billion a year – around £1 in every £40 of the total budget. Evidence from the staff survey and elsewhere shows that improving staff health and wellbeing will lead to higher staff engagement, better staff retention and better clinical outcomes for patients.

One of the major factors is the range and type of food available to staff, particularly those working shifts. It has previously been estimated that approximately 300,000 NHS staff are obese, with a further 400,000 staff being overweight. One of the main causes of this is diet and the consumption of foods high in fat, salt, saturate and sugar.

By focussing on making healthier food and drink more widely available, and good value for money, it is hoped to educate consumers about the alternatives available and encourage a change in diet.

Vending has a major part to play in this process and providers will be expected to achieve a step-change in the healthiness of the food offered in 2016/17, including:

■■ the banning of price promotions on sugary drinks and foods high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS). The majority of HFSS foods fall within five product categories, namely, pre-sugared breakfast cereals, soft drinks, confectionery and savoury snacks

■■ banning the advertising of sugary drinks and HFSS foods on NHS premises. This extends to machines provided by suppliers that are permanently branded to promote these items, and

■■ ensuring that healthy options are available at any time of day, including for those staff working night shifts.

Thirst Link offers a free-of-charge independent professional consultancy service to NHS Trusts on how this can all be delivered via vending and how it can be continually and effectively monitored if required. 

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