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£600m NHS staff wellness drive must go deeper, says Debra Stuart

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Plans for a new £600m fund to improve the wellbeing of NHS workers must drive to the root cause of lifestyle issues and focus on behaviour change if they are to really make a difference.

That’s the view of Premier Global CEO Debra Stuart, who says the NHS should focus on tackling gaps in workers’ understanding of healthy lifestyles to ensure this information sticks and can be cascaded down to patients and wider communities.

Last week, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens announced the creation of a new £600m national incentive fund to help frontline NHS staff stay healthy. As part of the measures, dance, yoga and Pilates classes will be made available to workers, while a ban on junk food adverts, prominent displays and price promotions on NHS premises is also being lined up.

However, Stuart believes the NHS should utilise the behavioural change expertise of the physical activity sector to educate staff and empower them to take healthier lifestyle decisions.

"Although it's great to see the NHS recognising the positive impact leading a fit and healthy lifestyle has on its staff, I think they are way off with this initiative and it will only go part way to solving their problem,” Stuart told Health Club Management.

“The NHS needs to educate its staff and give them the tools to inform them in a sophisticated manner. They need to partner with our sector to train and educate key people and influencers to deliver a long term, holistic approach to the management of health and wellbeing.”

There is growing momentum behind the importance of workplace wellness schemes and policymakers are currently looking at a number of options to help the UK workforce live healthier lifestyles. Public Health England last week launched its last One You initiative – thought to be the first public health campaign targeted specifically at the middle-aged – while ukactive called on a number of senior Conservatives to back policy changes that would offer tax incentives for workplace physical activity schemes.

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Plans for a new £600m fund to improve the wellbeing of NHS workers must drive to the root cause of lifestyle issues and focus on behaviour change if they are to really make a difference.
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