NHS trusts failing to tackle staff obesity
Just 15 per cent of NHS trusts have a policy or plan to help tackle staff obesity, a report by the Royal College of Physicians and the Faculty of Occupational Medicine has revealed.
The findings come from the first national audit within the NHS of NICE public health guidance for the workplace, which involved almost 900,000 employees from 282 trusts across England.
The audit, published this week, was recommended by the 2009 Boorman Review which called for staff health and wellbeing to be embedded in the core business of NHS organisations.
The Department of Health estimated in 2009 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.
But despite the scale of the problem facing the NHS, the audit reveals that little is being done to encourage staff to adopt a healthier lifestyle.
NICE recommends that employers help employees to be physically active during the working day, but only 32 per cent of the participant organisations said that they have a plan or policy in place to encourage and support staff to be more physically active.
Less than one in three trusts offered evidence-based weight management programmes for their staff, and just 31 per cent promote healthy options for staff in their shops.
Out of the 42 trusts that did have a plan or policy for tackling staff obesity, only 13 measured uptake of any programmes by different staff groups such as by grade, gender or ethnicity.
The audit also revealed that less than half of trusts, 46 per cent, had a plan or policy to promote mental wellbeing of their staff, in line with NICE guidance.
But trusts fared better for smoking cessation services, with 73 per cent encouraging and supporting employees to stop smoking. Over 90 per cent of trusts provided and publicised access to stop smoking support.
Dr Sian Williams, Director of the RCP's Health and Work Development Unit said:”The results are very disappointing. There is a growing body of evidence to prove that employers who look after their employees will see a more efficient workforce.
“Trusts that implement the NICE workplace guidance can expect healthier and more productive staff and better patient outcomes as a result.
“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.”
Dr Richard Preece, a Consultant in Occupational Medicine at Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust who led the audit, added: “The credibility of health messages is supported by the lifestyles of health professionals, for example in the reduction and current low levels of smoking among doctors.
“NHS trusts need to take staff health and wellbeing seriously to ensure productivity at a time when there is increased pressure to make efficiency savings.”
Dr Preece recently joined NICE's fellows and scholars programme and intends to use his fellowship to promote a better understanding of the interaction between health and work amongst clinicians.
He will first use networks in the North West and then other regions to promote the uptake of NICE's workplace guidance and promote understanding of the improvements in performance and productivity that come from this.
15 April 2011