Health service employers should address obesity in their staff because they provide a "very poor role model" to patients trying to lose weight, a peer has suggested.
Baroness Finlay of Llandaff, a doctor and former president of the Royal Society of Medicine, said ministers should introduce a "requirement" for all health service employers to "address obesity in their staff at all levels".
"The staff are often quite severely obese and actually act as a very poor role model to those patients whose obesity should be being addressed," the crossbench peer said during question time on 12 November 2012.
Responding, Health Minister Earl Howe said he was co-chairman of a network within the Department of Health which "draws together employers from a range of sectors to address health in the workplace".
"It is a tremendously important opportunity to engage employers to realise that it is in their own interests to ensure that their employees enjoy good health and lead healthy lifestyles," he said.
Earlier in the session, he told peers obesity rates across England "remain high", and that there were clear links to health inequalities.
Earl Howe said GPs could play a "key role" in raising the issue of obesity and providing advice or referral to appropriate services.
Labour former minister Lord Foulkes said doctors should be told it did not help "to be critical and condemnatory of those of us who are obese" as that could lead to "depression and other illnesses".
"It is very important to give encouragement and that is why, I'm glad to say, I've been able to lose over a stone in the last month," he added.
Lord Howe responded: "Not for the first time you are an example to us all."
He agreed with Lord Foulkes about the way doctors should interact with patients.