Page last updated at 08:54 GMT, Saturday, 1 November 2008

End to hospital junk food vending

Vending machine
Fruit and healthy drinks are to replace chocolate and crisps in machines

A ban on hospital vending machines selling crisps, chocolate and sugary drinks has been introduced.

The assembly government announced in March it would replace unhealthy snacks with fruit and sugar-free drinks to help patients make "healthy choices".

Wales' chief medical officer, Dr Tony Jewell said: "It's not the whole answer - it's a step in the right direction."

But the Welsh Liberal Democrats said the policy could penalise "stressed-out families".

Reminders to eat five portions of fruit or vegetables a day will replace logos on the sides of machines.

But four health trusts who signed long-term contracts with suppliers have been given more time to complete the change.

The University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff is tied into a five-year contract, while Bronglais Hospital in Aberystwyth still has 20 months to run its vending deal.

Bro Morgannwg trust has 18 months left, while Gwent Healthcare NHS Trust has between six and 12 months left on its contract.

'Not winning'

Dr Jewell said the ban was part of an attempt to stop a growing obesity problem by making hospitals "set an example".

"It's got to go quite far because half of our population are overweight and a quarter are obese.

"Whatever we are doing, we are not winning on this issue.

"We have got a major public health problem here. Just putting information leaflets out is not breaking through," he said.

Dr Jewell also said the ban could later be extended to hospital shops and cafes.

"They are not subject to this at the moment, but we are in dialogue with them about looking to the future," he added.

The occasional chocolate bar will not hurt anyone, it is the food culture that needs addressing
Jenny Randerson AM, Welsh Lib Dem health spokesperson

A spokeswoman for the Women's Royal Voluntary Service (WRVS), which runs catering services in hospitals, said it only operated vending machines in one hospital in Wales.

"At the end of the day we have to achieve balance and we are here to provide a service, so we need to be able to offer a sensible choice.

"While we strive to work with the NHS to provide that healthy option, we need to be mindful that we have got customers and we need to cater for those customers."

But the Welsh Liberal Democrat health spokesperson, Jenny Randerson AM, said while anything that improved nutrition was a good thing, she thought the changes would have a "minimal effect".

"I am actually quite concerned that removing junk food from vending machines could just penalise stressed out families of patients who really need a bar of chocolate to keep their energy and spirits up," she said.

"The occasional chocolate bar will not hurt anyone, it is the food culture that needs addressing, whether it be in hospitals, schools or at home."

A commitment to improve food and and nutrition in Welsh hospitals was part of the Labour-Plaid Cymru coalition agreement.

The decision to ban unhealthy food from vending machines followed a report from a group chaired by the chief nursing officer for Wales.

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SEE ALSO
Call to ban junk food from NHS
10 Oct 08 |  Health
Hospital to limit unhealthy food
27 Mar 08 |  Derbyshire

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