The head of the NHS in England has offered hospitals cash incentives if they help staff improve their health.
Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said: “As the largest employer in Europe, the NHS needs to practice what it preaches by offering better support for the health and well-being of our own 1.3 million staff.”
To spur boards into action, hospitals will be offered cash incentives. A £600 million pot has been set aside from April 2016. To get their share, hospitals must limit the availability of junk food and provide physiotherapy and mental health support.
The measures have been introduced to help cut the £2.4 billion a year it costs to treat NHS staff. Mental health and musculoskeletal problems are the two most expensive items on the bill.
To receive their share of the cash, hospitals must remove price promotions and checkout displays on sugary drinks and high-fat or salty foods. They’ve also been ordered to increase the number of front-line staff given the winter flu jab.
Justifying the decision, Simon Stevens said: “A good place to start is by tackling the sources of staff sickness absence including mental health and musculoskeletal injuries, while doing our bit to end the nation’s obesity epidemic by ditching junk food and sugary drinks in place of tasty, healthy and affordable alternatives. If we can do this well, we hope that more parts of the public and private sector will see the sense of it and also take the plunge.”