A Note to the Chief Executive of a Large UK Hospital

First

23th April 2015

Contacted the chief executive of a large local hospital about obesity and the fact that the boss of the NHS had labelled obesity as the new smoking.  Now smoking has been totally banned from anywhere within the hospital grounds.  This has been a gradual process becoming more and more strict with time.  So I asked him if there were any plans to eradicate fattening addictive food in a similar way.

28th April 2015

No reply yet but interestingly I was listening to Call You and Yours on BBC Radio 4 during my lunch break.  The topic was teenage obesity.  The programme was made up of callers phoning and emailing etc., talking about their experiences plus some professionals in the studio.

One distraught man on the phone whose son had died, at a young age, of an obesity related cause, spoke of, and despaired of, hospital shops and how they are full from floor to ceiling with crisps and chocolate. 

June 2015 the question was eventually answered.  Here is the question and answer:

Question: I gave up smoking about 18 months ago. Now I have a battle with my weight and a food addiction which is proving to be harder than smoking to deal with.

Is there going to be any measures for reducing the amount of fattening food around the hospital? Measures have been gradually taken in terms of smoking, making it harder and less acceptable to smoke. Should the hospital be taking similar measures about the wrong foods being for sale in such large quantities and in so many places?

I am not saying there are not enough healthy choices around. I do realise that there is also healthy food everywhere and indeed a fruit and veg stall which is brilliant. What I am saying is, there is too much around of what is making us ill and should these foods be less available?

Asking a junk food addict to choose between a Snickers bar/bag of crisps and a healthy apple is like asking a smoker to choose between breathing in smoke or breathing in healthy fresh air. Despite knowing that this is making me ill and possibly shortening my life, just like with smoking it is nigh-on impossible to resist when your body is screaming out for its fix.

At home I can eliminate the bad food choices from my cupboards. I also make healthy lunches to bring with me, but I arrive at work - at a HEALTH service no less - and I am surrounded by the stuff. Do you think now is the time to set an example and start reducing the amount available around the hospital?

Answer:  Firstly, congratulations on quitting smoking.  I appreciate how hard this is to do.

As you point out, the Trust does provide a good range of healthy food options.  The Catering Department continuously reviews and changes many items on our menus (retail and patient menus) by significantly reducing fat, sugar and salt. They have actively have increased healthy food and drink choices available and promote healthy items such as low fat milk in vending machines, fruit and water based drinks rather than sugar based as well as offer such items like fresh fruit, salad and bottled water at reduced prices.

I think the non-healthy options you refer to will be mainly in our retail outlets.  As we are supplying the general public here we have to cater for a very wide variety of tastes and requests, so the range on offer reflects what you would typically expect to find in other food retail outlets to suit most tastes and offer choice.

As a Trust we have won awards for promoting healthy eating, but I hope you will understand that alongside that we have to offer choice and variety for everyone.

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Well personally I think the answer is appalling, considering my plea that I am food junky, they say they "have to" give people choice.  Why?  I think I know why, because bad addictive "choices" bring in money which to them is more important.  And because they blame fat people for their own food choices, even though it is evident that it is not a choice at all, it is an addiction

Next

next - September 2015

Question:  Would you give the lady who runs the fruit and veg stall a big big ‘thank you’ for turning up in the pouring rain today and carrying on regardless. She was absolutely soaked but still cheerful! I am sure she will also be there if we have searing heat.

However it does seem sad that the person who is selling us good wholesome real food should have to do this, while the shops selling us unhealthy fatty and sugar laden food and drink are warm and dry.

Do you think it possible to provide some sort of shelter? Even just a canopy - especially as autumn is only a few weeks away. We don't want to lose our fresh food stall. Who would want to stand out for half a day with no roof and no shelter from sun rain or snow?

If she were staff I would nominate her for a proud award.

Answer:  I’m pleased that you’re  finding this facility useful. The stall holder is a member of the ‘workplace wellbeing charter initiative’  and the fruit and veg stall was an initiative developed by the Health & Wellbeing Group this year as part of our strategy to support staff in healthy lifestyles.   I appreciate your concern for the stall holder, who does have access to hot drinks and appropriate toilet facilities but we will now look into accommodating the stall within the entrance area or provide appropriate shelter.

I’ll ensure the best wishes of staff who have been delighted with this initiative are passed on and we are looking to see if we can have a similar scheme at our Xxxxxxxx site.


Then

February 3rd 2016

I recently attended A/E with a loved one a couple of evenings ago. It was about 4 o'clock in the morning before I managed to go home.  The service we received was excellent and thankfully the person made a full recovery and we are very grateful to the hard working staff who worked through the night without complaint.

However, as you can imagine, with lack of sleep we got quite hungry.  We do not expect to be fed for free, especially at that time of night, but the only food available to purchase was chocolate and crisps. 

Do you think it might be at all possible for a sandwich dispensing vending machine to be installed so that people stuck at the hospital during unsocial hours can purchase proper nourishing food if they need it?


9th September 2016

This question was never answered.  I have a feeling they had a bit of trouble with their emails at the time. 

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