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Employers urged to tackle cause of obesity among nurses

Employers should tackle issues in the NHS that contribute to obesity among nurses, according to a report that says issues needing to be addressed include shift patterns, nurses being unable to leave clinical areas to eat, and access to water


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Employers should tackle issues in the NHS that contribute to obesity among nurses, a report says.

The recommendation comes after a two-year project examining weight issues in the nursing profession that showed one in four nurses in England is obese.

The report of the Healthy Weight Initiative for Nurses (WIN) calls for managers to have constructive conversations with staff about obesity.

The NHS and employers should address issues such as shift patterns, nurses being unable to leave clinical areas to eat, and access to water as part of their health and safety obligations, the report says.

Taking breaks

The House of Commons health committee has asked England’s chief nurse to check with all nursing directors that nurses are able to take their breaks and easily access food and drink.

WIN is a joint project between health promotion charity C3 Collaborating for Health, the RCN and London South Bank University.

The report says being a healthy weight should be acknowledged as an element of a nurse’s fitness for work. Other recommendations include:

  • Identifying best practice in addressing obesity in the workforce – evaluating which approaches to obesity work and sharing knowledge.
  • Standardised data collection through staff surveys – extra questions included on the national staff survey, and monitoring numbers of staff redeployed due to obesity-related illness and sickness as a result of musculoskeletal injuries and diabetes.
  • Engaging the public – considering what role the public could have in encouraging nurses to address obesity in the workforce.

Looking after themselves

C3 nursing associate Michaela Nuttall said: ‘Nurses are going to have to work longer than first anticipated and they need to think about being healthier to enable them to work longer. Nurses need to feel they are important enough to look after themselves.

‘When we first started, we had nurses queuing up to hear more, they were so excited that someone was actually addressing concerns they had held for a long time.’

The WIN project ran from 2015-17. Nurses worked with the initiative to co-design interventions to help manage weight.

Focus groups in the project said factors responsible for nurses’ obesity included long working hours, not having adequate facilities to prepare and eat food, and the emotional burden of caring.

Realistic goals

Ms Nuttall said C3 would be happy to work with employers to tackle the issue.

An app called Nursing You has also been launched to help nurses set realistic goals and achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

RCN senior employment relations officer Kim Sunley said: ‘It is important that employers recognise their responsibility to staff and develop systems to help them make healthy choices.

‘Well-designed shift patterns, adequate breaks and access to water and healthy food, particularly for those working nights or in the community, are practical ways that employers can help.’


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