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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 June 2006, 11:47 GMT 12:47 UK
Supermarket health plan attacked
By Nick Triggle
BBC News at the BMA conference, Belfast

Many supermarkets already have pharmacies
Health care should not be provided in supermarkets because they promote unhealthy products, doctors say.

The British Medical Association conference overwhelmingly opposed moves by the government to take health care into the high street.

Doctors said the sale and promotion of tobacco, alcohol and junk food would undermine the health services on offer.

The government has said it wants to see GPs, sexual health and smoking cessation services in supermarkets.

In my surgery it would be inconceivable, unacceptable and immoral if we were to have cigarette packets or bottles of booze displayed on the receptionist's counter
Dr Chaand Nagpaul

But Dr Vivienne Nathanson, head of science and ethics at the BMA, said supermarkets were not compatible with providing primary care.

"They have not been completely on side with what we have been trying to do with food labelling and also when you consider the products on sale, we have to ask whether they are the right places to provide care."

Speaking in the debate, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, a GP in Stanmore, Middlesex, said: "In my surgery it would be inconceivable, unacceptable and immoral if we were to have cigarette packets or bottles of booze displayed on the receptionist's counter on sale to patients when they booked to see a doctor or nurse.

"For an immoral outlet to take the public's money in exchange for selling health-damaging products like tobacco and alcohol and then to profit from NHS resources is a sickening travesty."

Wrong location

And GP Kailash Chand added: "The notion that nicotine and alcohol may be sold where primary care services are to be delivered is anathema to the medical profession.

"Do we want to promote good health in a situation where the vehicles of bad health are being sold on adjacent stands."

A spokeswoman for Tesco said it had no current plans to offer GP surgeries in store, but would look at new ways to offer health services to customers.

Sainsbury's said it was looking for a suitable site for a surgery.

She said: "We have responded positively to the government's interest in GP surgeries and are committed to working with them on delivering at least one GP surgery in store and we are currently looking for potential sites.

"There are clear benefits for patients and customers because our stores are very accessible and convenient."

Medics also said they wanted to see the advertising of unhealthy food to children banned.

Paediatrician Professor Bhupinder Sandu said children were "vulnerable" and needed to be protected.

Doctors also called for a traffic light food labeling system to be introduced to help advise people which foods are unhealthy.

It is being piloted in some supermarkets, but most of the industry has opposed it.

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