Tuesday 9 January 2018

Doctors are the new children

Following the NHS ban on sugary drinks, the manager of Tameside Hospital in the north-west has announced a ban on sugary snacks:

Tameside hospital in Greater Manchester 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.

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, is planning to ban the sale of sugary drinks in hospitals this summer... 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.

I saw the press release for this yesterday when it was under embargo and gave a comment to the Times:

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. It is an insult to the intelligence of every doctor and nurse. If trained medics can be trusted with patients, surely they can be trusted with a dessert trolley?”

(Incidentally, why was it press released? Could it be that the managers at Tameside hospital are looking for brownie points from Simon Stevens?)

The first thing to note is that this is not about children and it is not a hospital patients. It is not about the quality of school food or hospital food, both of which can be sensibly regulated to meet nutritional standards.

It is about an employer deciding what its adult employees eat, as Steve Morton, a fat cat from Public Health England North West, says:

“Large employers can set a great example by encouraging their staff to think about their health by opting for healthier food and restricting less healthy options such as sugary snacks and fizzy drinks.”

Part of me thinks that it is quite funny that the members of the vile British Medical Association are the first in line for this patronising treatment, but then I remember that most medics are perfectly normal people who don't deserve it.

Managers acknowledge that the reaction from staff has been mixed, with some demanding to know where their favourite treats have gone. 

Too bad, medics. You're being 'encouraged to think about your health', dontcha know?

It's no surprise to find that this initiative is being led by somebody who has the words 'human resources' in their job title:

“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,” Amanda Bromley, director of human resources at the hospital, said. “You’d go to the till and there’d be a Twix and a Bounty bar staring back at you. People are working long shifts and if things are in front of them we know they are going to reach for them.”

That's up to them though, isn't it, Amanda? If people have been working hard - something I suspect you know little about - a Twix or a Bounty could be just the ticket.

The hospital's new chef sounds like a wrong 'un as well:

“I started here in May and the menu at that point was standard northern fare, so pie and chips, comfort food – what people are used to. We looked to introduce certain specialised dishes, such as wild and mixed mushroom stroganoff, served with light couscous."

Sounds disgusting. How long before the long suffering staff at Tameside Hospital get their children to bring them fish and chips at lunchtime? In a reversal of the scenes in Rotherham in 2006, they could pass it to their parents through the gates. 

That's what this is, isn't it? It's Jamie's School Dinners for adults. It cannot be said too often that whenever 'public health' invoke the chiiiiiildren, it is never about children. The goal is always, ultimately, to restrict the choices of adults.

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