Greater Manchester Hospital Initiates Food Bank Service

The emergency department of a Greater Manchester hospital is attempting to help out with malnutrition.

As economic difficulties continue to be felt across the country, Tameside hospital in Greater Manchester will distribute food boxes discreetly to patients suffering from a risk of malnourishment.

The institution is also planning to open a permanent food bank collection centre inside the hospital, thus assisting with the nutrition of both patient and local residents.

This latest news came on the day in which the Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith announced his intention to locate job advisors within food banks.

Managers at the hospital stated that the decision had been made due to the concern of both doctors and nurses working within the Tameside environment.

As the issue is set to become an increasing problem, staff have even been trained in order to recognise symptoms of malnutrition among patients.

This is not the first recent example of a hospital in Britain chipping in with food contributions to needy people.

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham previously opened a food and clothing bank, while the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle began offering parcels to parents using its neonatal care unit recently.

Aside from offering food parcels, it is also intended for the hospital to collect food in order to distribute it in the surrounding region.

Organisers hope that this will prevent patients who have been recently discharged from returning a a few days later due to nutrition-related reasons.

In order to carry out this particular scheme, the hospital is working closely with the Trussell Trust.

This Christian charity has set up food banks all over the UK, particularly in areas of high deprivation.

The number of banks that the trust has become involved with has risen to 1,200 during the current calendar year.

It is planned that the Tameside hospital will ultimately have a central collection point attached to it scanteen.

This will enable staff, visitors and people in the local region to leave contributions.

Gwen Drain, the centre manager of the Tameside East food bank, which is part of the Trussell Trust network, said she was delighted by the hospital’s approach: “Today in Tameside there are families struggling to put food on the table. For people on low incomes, a sudden crisis – redundancy, benefit delay or even an unexpected bill – can mean going hungry. Every day parents skip meals to feed their children and people are forced to choose between paying the rent and eating.”

Malnutrition affects three million people in the UK and costs the NHS an estimated £5bn a year.

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Hospitals Failing to Strike Right Note on Nutrition

A survey carried out by The Observer newspaper suggests that hospitals in the NHS are sending out a mixed message by stocking vending machines with unhealthy food and drinks.

According to the survey of hospital trusts in England, all of the 76 trusts who responded sold confectionary and salty snacks, while as many as half failed to offer plain dried or fresh fruit.

And of the 60 trusts that provided information related to soft drinks, only two – the Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust and the Bolton NHS Foundation Trust – have restricted the availability of fizzy drinks to diet versions.

It should be said in mitigation that diet fizzy drinks have come under as much criticism as their full sugar equivalents, with artificial sweeteners such as aspartame being linked with a wide variety of health problems.

Whether diet fizzy drinks would actually be healthier than full sugar variants is debatable. What could be said is that water or some form of pure fruit juice would be a considerably superior option to any form of soda.

Hospitals have come under pressure to improve the quality of food on offer to patients and staff, as it has become increasingly clear that the nutritional value of food served in hospitals is sometimes negligible.

Only last month, Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, called on hospitals to improve the quality of food being offered, and to serve healthy options in restaurants, cafes and vending machines.

The health regulator Nice has already advised that only 20 per cent of vending machine drinks should be sweetened by significant amounts of sugar.

Additionally, sweetened drinks should be sold in site is no greater than 330ml.

But Freedom of information requests issued by The Guardian indicate that most of us in the UK are in fact ignoring these regulations.

For example, vending machines at the Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust offer nineteen different varieties of sugary soft drinks or juice drinks and two flavoured milk-shake drinks.

Speaking on behalf of the National Obesity Forum, Tam Fry stated that hospitals needed to more reflect an ethos of healthy eating.

“They’re stoking up business for themselves; particularly with obesity and diabetes, you don’t want to see more of them [patients]; you want to see fewer. One of the ways to see more is to ply them with sugary drinks,” Fry opined.

Susan Jebb, professor of diet and population health at Oxford, suggested that pricing is also an issue.

“The problem is that the choice is biased in favour of the less healthy option by price, availability and portion size. Even the manufacturers say that if you take those bottles of sugary drinks it’s not one serving, it’s two – so why have we got 500ml bottles in vending machines, which are supposed to be about single-unit purchases?”

In May, 2014, it was reported that the UK is one of the most obese countries in Europe.

The UK has higher levels of obesity and overweight people than anywhere in western Europe except for Iceland and Malta according to the Global Burden of Disease study.

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Poll Indicates Support for BMA Fruit and Veg Campaign

A new poll instigated by the British Medical Association indicates that the majority of people would back the introduction of a free portion of fruit and / or vegetables for older primary school pupils.

The Ipsos MORI survey of 2,000 parents across the UK found that 79 per cent of people would strongly support or tend to support the measure, while just 5 per cent would tend to oppose or are strongly opposed to it.

Although the concept of providing free fruit and vegetables may seem to be a fanciful notion there  are in fact is already precedents within the United Kingdom.

Eleven local authorities in Scotland currently provide some form of free fruit and vegetables above what is routinely provided in terms of school dinners.

However, although this may appear to be a positive development, in reality it represents something of a retraction from previous positions.

As recently as 2013/14, sixteen local authorities in Scotland had schemes in place, thus there has been a significant reduction over the last two years alone.

But the fact that schemes are already operating successfully in Scotland does suggest that it would be possible for free fruit and vegetables to be offered on a wide scale basis within the United Kingdom.

The BMA-backed survey comes in the context of the recent Food for Thought report, published in July.

This report suggested that all primary age pupils should be provided with a free portion of fruit and / or vegetables on every school day.

There are also suggestions related to the regulations on the marketing of unhealthy foods to children, and a tax on sugary drinks was also advocated, suggesting that this could help subsidise a fund for free fruit and vegetables.

The notion of taxing sugary drink, though, has not been supported by all people, regardless of the negative health impact of soda and other guilty parties in general.

It is suggested that taxing these products is not actually addressing the consumption of sugary drinks, and will instead ensure that in many cases poorer members of society simply pay more for products.

However, making this clear link between the subsidisation of fruit and vegetables, effectively providing a free service to children, as a payoff for taxing sugary drinks, could make the policy seen more palatable to its detractors.

Commenting on the results from the survey, Dr Andrew Thomson, who sits on the BMA’s Board of Science strongly advocated the policy suggested by the British Medical Association.

“We need to redouble our efforts to ensure that children are eating healthily and this poll shows clear public backing for ensuring that all primary school children get access to a free portion of fruit or vegetables. Providing primary school pupils with free fruit or vegetables means that they are less likely to eat unhealthy snacks between meals and helps to build positive habits that can last throughout their lives,” Thomson asserted.

Thomson also believes that further pressure and activism is required in order to motivate the government to respond to public opinion.

“It is concerning that several local authorities have actually scrapped the provision of free fruit and vegetables in schools in recent years. Action is needed to address this variation and ensure that primary school pupils in all parts of the country benefit equally from free fruit and vegetables,” Thomson opined.

Obesity in children has been growing to such an extent in recent years that it is frequently described as an epidemic.

While one extra portion of fruit and vegetables a day would hardly reverse this situation, it is hoped by the BMA that it could make a contribution to children making healthier food choices.

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NHS Announces Programme to Tackle Eating Disorders in Young People

NHS England has announced the first stage of a new programme that is intended to improve services related to eating disorders in the health service.

The new initiative intends to transform the way that eating disorders are dealt with in the NHS by the end of the decade.

Central to the £30 million program is the aim of achieving 95 per cent of patients being seen within four weeks, or one week for urgent cases.

This new raft of funding is merely the first stage of a wider NHS program intended to improve children and young people’s mental health and well-being.

The programme will be utilised in order to improve committee-based eating disorders services, with the aim of ensuring that patients are assisted more speedily.

It is also an overarching aim of the programme to ensure that fewer patients suffering from eating disorders require in-patient care.

The government has announced that funding will be recurrent over the next five years.

Commenting on the subject, Dr Martin McShane, National Clinical Director for Long Term Conditions at NHS England, noted that eating disorders are becoming an increasingly important issue.

“The number of children and young people with an eating disorder is on the rise and it is right that the Government has made this a priority and that we now have a clear waiting time standard,” McShane stated.

The National Clinical Director also made a strong case for the need to intervene in eating disorder cases as quickly as possible.

“It is clinically proven that patients recover most quickly when we treat them as early and as close to home as possible. By prioritising our focus on doing this we can minimise the number of young people who end up needing more specialised in-patient care,” McShane opined.

In accordance with this eating disorder scheme, NHS England has also issued guidance to Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) on submitting their Local Transformation Plans (LTPs).

This has occurred with the aim of improving mental health care for children and young people, with eating disorder services a central pillar of the initiative.

NHS England will in fact invest an extra £133 million in improving children and young people’s mental health this year.

Dr Jacqueline Cornish, NHS England National Clinical Director for Children and Young People, was optimistic about the prospect for treating mental health in the future. “We are on the  brink of a new dawn for young people’s mental health and these are the first steps towards a new and more secure place with a brighter and more hopeful future,” Cornish enthused.

Cornish was also keen to underline that sustained evolution was required within the NHS as a whole.

“Unless we make real changes across the whole system, opportunities to build resilience promote good mental health and intervene early when problems first arise, will continue to be missed and the opportunity to build a stronger youth for future generations lost,” Cornish warned.

The Access and Waiting Time Standard for Children and Young People with an Eating Disorder is the first standard to be developed.

It is intended for this programme to be introduced as data on the subject becomes more holistic and therefore reliable.

The standard will play a significant role in the major service transformation intended in the coming years, with children and young people able to expediently access high-quality care and support going forward.

The government policy in this area is based on the publication and report “Achieving Better Access to Mental Health Services by 2020” and the Five Year Forward View.

The number of people diagnosed with eating disorders in the UK has increased by 15 per cent since 2000, according to a study by King’s College London and the UCL Institute of Child Health, published in 2013.

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