Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The unhealthy world of NHS hospitals

I've unfortunately spent more time than most in hospitals, mostly as a visitor, my dad especially spent over 6 months as a patient and I was his only daily visitor, sometimes spending several hours there.

There are an amazing amount of stupid things that happen, in that period I witnessed a cleaner who seemed to only appear on a Friday afternoon, his modus operandi was to mop the floor and while it was drying to then take a sweeping brush and sweep the floor he had just mopped! Fire hoses that may or may not have worked but were probably 30 years old or more and had layers of dust that were probably the same age. Alcoholic handwash is all very well, but surely ceiling tiles with a 12" square patch of green mould is probably more risky to patients and the public than anything else.

My main point of this topic now is the entrance to hospital, one of the first things to notice (after you get through the half dozen smokers outside) is a sign with direction to vending machines, the sign has a large advertising logo for Coca-Cola and points to vending machines selling the soft drink and the one above, full of confectionery. I'm not totally against these items in general use, but surely a hospital of all places should encourage some healthy eating, fruit perhaps, vegetable snacks in fact anything remotely healthy. Given that one of the biggest causes of health problems in the world is diabetes, and a personal estimate would be that at least a third of hospital patients would be diabetic, a major factor being what people drink, be they high or low sugar drinks. Research is now starting to show that diet drinks can be worse for diabetics than high sugar ones. I am by no means an expert, my dad had long term complications from diabetes, kidney failure, vascular problems, mood swings, blindness and ultimately death, so I have personal experience and researched some of the problems he had and their causes.

The diabetic recruitment drive doesn't end there. Having visited the pre-natal department in the same hospital, there is a wall devoted to statistics on diabetes and dietary advice as to how best avoid it, yet in the same department is a volunteer canteen, who's offerings are cakes, sweets, chocolates, crisps, coca-cola and other sugar drinks, in fact general diabetic recruiting products, I wasn't initially inspecting what they sold, I was looking for a healthy snack to eat, there wasn't one, nothing for expectant mothers (or fathers!).

Perhaps the managers of the hospital would argue that people don't want healthy food, maybe they have sold carrots or celery sticks and they have gone to waste, but that really isn't good enough, a hospital should only have healthy food, their staff and patients should only eat healthy foods, there shouldn't be any other option. Hospitals should lead the way in healthy eating, leading by example would surely save money long term, 'training' patients to eat well whilst in hospital may lead to them eating well outside and mean no return visits.

An association with Coca-cola, even in a tentative manner is not too far removed from being sponsored by Benson & Hedges.

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