Parenthood brings with it trials and joys, frustrations and fears. It is a great responsibility and we all want the best for our children. I confess my parental feeling recently has been of pride. Pride in my own son’s current successful attempt to tackle his obesity. This he has done through self-control of his diet and with a simple exercise routine (walking). He has succeeded in losing over three and a half stones (approx. 23kg).
As reported on nhs.uk over seven years ago, obesity is set to absorb 17% of NHS funding by 2035/36 [a]. What progress is being made?
The NHS appears to be taking a typically over complicated approach to tackling the issue, or making an attempt to appear to tackle the issue. Ongoing warnings of the increased problem have not resulted in any improvement or foreseeable improvements and a change of culture within the ever increasingly politicised NHS is indubitably required if we are to make progress in reducing obesity and Type 2 diabetes.
There are two types of diabetes, with slightly different causes and treatments:
- Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition that occurs when the body’s immune cells destroy the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. It usually presents at a younger age and requires life-long insulin replacement injections
- Type 2 disease occurs when either the pancreatic cells do not produce enough insulin or the body’s cells do not respond to the actions of insulin and, therefore, do not remove glucose from the bloodstream sufficiently.
As noted in the NHS current obesity campaign strategy ‘Tackling Obesity is Everybody’s Business’[b], obesity is a main cause of Type 2 diabetes. Whilst the strategy claims the subject is complex, there is one resounding message to focus on – page 45.
“Did you know we can now cure TYPE 2 diabetes? Its (sic) not through a miracle new drug. If every newly diagnosed diabetic lost 15kg, over half of them will cure their diabetes.”
The politicisation of the NHS and the professional bodies representing healthcare workers is stifling a positive culture of wellbeing and lacking the firm leadership required to making simple solutions happen.
A report by NHS England makes damning reading on the costs to the NHS of staff obesity[c].
“A Department of Health report found obesity to be a significant health problem amongst NHS staff, with nearly 700,000 NHS staff estimated to be overweight or obese…”, “In 2015 Public Health England estimated the cost of sickness absence to the NHS at £2.4bn. Some reports have estimated this to be 27% higher than the UK public sector average, and 46% higher than the average for all sectors…” ,“If sickness absence was reduced by 1 day per person per year then the NHS would save around £150m, equivalent to around 6,000 full time staff. These financial savings do not even take into account the reduced use of agency staff or the costs of recruitment to tackle staff retention issues, and therefore are most likely to understate the overall impact on NHS finances…”
Leading by example is essential, but recent times now sadly see overt political partiality in the BMA and the RCN. I found this out directly on Thursday 27th June when I tweeted to Tom Watson the Labour Party Deputy Leader ‘campaigning’ with a Socialist activist aspiring to promotion within the bureaucratic structures of the RCN. The campaigners were highlighting a real problem of nurse shortages, the causes of which are many. Uncontrolled mass immigration, insufficient trainee nurses and places on nursing courses, increasing demands on the NHS and its budget and of course as highlighted by the NHS themselves, the number of staff days lost through sickness including that related to obesity.
Nursing notes, a blog site for matters nursing, published an article attempting to raise the issue within the profession “Healthcare staff should ‘attend to yoga or spin classes in their breaks’ to tackle obesity rates” [d], a novel yet proactive and practical suggestion for which Chloe Dawson was not subjected to hundreds of spiteful and hateful comments. Chloe doesn’t actively oppose the Labour Party though as I do.
It is frustrating to watch how political operatives and the media continually associate the NHS with the Labour Party, the institution more than any other which has brought problems to NHS management. Pictured with a selection of mainly obese nurses and Tom Watson a minister in the Blair government which actively undermined nurse training, privatised the NHS through PFI and introduced uncontrolled mass immigration causing a surge in NHS demand, was a the socialist political activist aspiring to a position on the RCN council – Socialist political control in the RCN for the future. As reported with somewhat disingenuous headlines in the Huddersfield Examiner[e] and also Nursing Notes[f] my questions to Tom Watson’s Tweet: “Why aren’t they nursing? And is there an obesity course they can be sent on.” The Socialist activist acted in a predictable manner and organised a ‘Twitter mob’. Several hundred responses later including the initial Tweets from far left Twitter mob activists and Ruth May* the head nurse of England, but I am still unclear if there are courses for obese NHS workers despite the reports, meetings, branding exercises, focus groups, committees and taxpayer money already frittered away. The responses to my questions didn’t address the questions themselves, but sadly reflected the cultural problem within the NHS of acting as though they should all be beyond any form of criticism – and worse, displaying the attributes of a hateful mob, each emboldened by their colleagues’ quite inhuman expressions towards a (non-Labour) elected representative that they don’t know and haven’t met.
It should also be noted that in the NMC code of conduct[g], nurses are obligated as part of their duty to take responsibility for their BMI. Clause 20.9 “…maintain the level of health you need to carry out your professional role…” This is a good document worthy of a revisitation by nurses – especially those who use Twitter.
Nurses, we have an obesity problem in the NHS. Tackling Obesity is Everybody’s Problem (#metoo). As an elected representative it is not for me to court favour with special interest groups, but to serve the electorate whom all nurses also serve. I’m the messenger, and nurses: you may shoot me as you will, but chin up, shoulders back, apply a positive mental attitude and as many including my son and the slim line Tom Watson himself have shown, simple solutions to the obesity problem can be implemented.
*I have asked Ruth May if she has any specific political allegiance, but I have not had a response.
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file