NHS trusts failing to address weight problems

Just 15% of NHS trusts have a policy or plan to help combat staff obesity, research by the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) and the Faculty of Occupational Medicine has concluded.

The findings have come from an analysis of the first national audit of staff within the NHS by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) published last August.

The analysis also concluded that trusts were failing to follow NICE guidance on physical activity, with only 32% of participant organisations having a plan or policy to encourage and support staff to be more physically active.

The audit, which was co-funded by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, assessed data from 282 NHS trusts responsible for close to 900,000 NHS employees in England.

When NHS trusts had engaged staff and assessed their needs, the audit found they were more likely to have taken actions to improve employee health and wellbeing.

Other findings included:

  • Fewer than one in three offered evidence-based weight management programmes for their staff.
  • Just 31% promoted 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.

Dr Siân 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.”

Dr Richard Preece, clinical lead for the audit and consultant in occupational medicine at Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, 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.”

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