Low-calorie hospital where healthy-eating NHS staff lead battle against obesity

A hospital has taken drastic action to tackle obesity by getting its staff to lead by example.

Vending machine “full-fat” drinks and sugary snacks are gone, and healthy meals are delivered to staff stuck on wards and in clinics.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock will be told of Tameside General Hospital radical plan, which may be rolled out across the NHS.

The East Manchester hospital, which has regular farmers’ markets to boost health, serves 250,000 people who are among the poorest, unhealthiest and most obese in the UK.

Here, more than 20% of school children in year six are classed as obese

The hospital’s 4,000-strong staff work long shifts with little chance to eat properly and struggle to stay healthy. They have admitted they set a bad example to the public.

Hospital chief executive and ex-nurse Karen James said: “Staff say they are telling patients to eat healthier and take exercise but they were not really heeding their own advice and they felt dreadful about that.”

She added: “These are dedicated professionals who believe they should be role models but the food environment at the hospital was working against them.”

Obesity kills 30,000 annually, cuts sufferers’ lives by nine years and costs the NHS more than £6.1billion a year. A Royal College of Nursing report found 25% of nurses were obese.

The hospital paid for 100 staff to go on a weight-loss programme and is trying to change shifts so they can eat healthily rather than having crisps, chocolate and treats from grateful patients and their relatives.

The project, featuring on tonight’s Channel 4 series How to Lose Weight Well, has seen staff transformed through weight-loss and experts believe their success will help the local population follow advice.

Orthopaedic practitioner Kevin Morris, 50, whose weight peaked at 19.5 stone, lost more than two stone on the hospital weight-loss programme and by ditching his 11-packet-a-day crisp habit.

He said: “My daughter Lucy wanted me to go on a diet so she could get her arms round me to give me a hug.”

And neo-natal nurse Janette Ogley, 56, who lost two stone, no longer needs her arthritis pills and is training to run a 10K race.

Tam Fry, chief of the National Obesity Forum, believes the Tameside template should be ­replicated around the NHS.

Tameside is also work­­ing with schools and GP surgeries to promote healthier lifestyles across the community.

Local Labour MP Andrew Gwynne said the Department of Health should take note of the good example set by the hospital.

The Department said: “The Government is determined to promote the benefits of good nutrition and regular exercise to help patients live longer, healthier and happier lives.”

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