TAMESIDE General Hospital has become the first to ban all sugary snacks.
It has banished fizzy drinks, chocolates, sweets and biscuits from its canteen and vending machines as it encourages overweight staff to set a better example to patients.
Staff at Tameside hospital have nicknamed Simon Stevens, the NHS England chief executive, “the carb snatcher”.
Managers acknowledge the reaction from staff has been mixed, with some demanding to know where their favourite treats have gone.
However, they are urging the rest of the NHS to follow suit to help patients and staff to eat more healthily.
Mr Stevens is planning to ban the sale of sugary drinks in hospitals this summer if on-site shops cannot get them down to under 10-per-cent of sales.
He is also imposing calorie caps on sandwiches, crisps and chocolate to fight a “snack culture that is causing an epidemic of obesity, preventable diseases, tooth decay, heart disease and cancer”.
However, Tameside is going further, saying that in its staff canteen there will be no more sweet treats except the odd dessert and sugar for hot drinks. It is also trying to persuade its Costa Coffee outlet to get rid of cakes and muffins.
“We’ve taken away the sugary drinks, we’ve taken sugary snacks out of vending machines, we’ve taken away cookies and muffins and replaced them with fruit,” said Amanda Bromley, director of human resources at the hospital.
“People are working long shifts and if snacks are in front of them we know they are going to reach for them.”
Ms Bromley pointed to a study last month which found a quarter of NHS nurses were obese, rising to almost a third of healthcare assistants.
“Nurses and other health professionals need to be leading by example. They need to be role models for patients,” she said.
Tam Fry, chairman of the National Obesity Forum, said the move was trailblazing and added: “Tameside’s initiative should be rolled out to every hospital.”
However, Chris Snowdon, from the Institute of Economic Affairs, said: “The manager of this hospital has a very low opinion of her staff if she thinks they need to be nannied like this.
“If trained medics can be trusted with patients, surely they can be trusted with a dessert trolley?”
The move comes after 100 members of the 4,000 Tameside staff took part in a 12-week Slimpod programme.
Chief executive Karen James, who commissioned the programme, said: “Long hours and shift patterns often make it very difficult for people to make healthy choices, so they opt for the instant sweet fixes.
“These are dedicated healthcare professionals who believe they should be role models for their patients, but the food environment has been working against them.”
The consultants, midwives, community nurses and medical support secretaries who took part in the project all reported health improvements and benefits.
The most successful person on the study lost 13.1kg – almost two stone – over 12 weeks, and one who had been chronically diabetic now has the condition under control.
Urgent Care Nurse Luan Walton, 38, said: “So far I’ve lost 20 pounds in 12 weeks. I’ve already dropped a dress size and a half.”
Macmillan cancer nurse Stephanie Ridgeway, 50, said: “My problem was I could be giving advice to my patients about healthy eating with my pockets stuffed with chocolate bars.
“Now I feel that I’m practising what I preach. I’ve lost 21lbs and I’m a size 10.”
Slimpod founder and weight loss expert Sandra Roycroft-Davis said: “For years people have been calling for the food environment in hospitals to be transformed and I applaud Tameside for leading the way.
“When you’re working in an environment full of unhealthy options, it makes it so difficult to change your behaviour and relationship with food.”