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New £600m NHS fund to get staff fit

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Dance, yoga and Pilates classes will be made available to NHS staff as part of a new £600m fund designed to ensure Europe’s largest single workforce is fit for purpose.

With 1.3 million workers, the NHS in England is Europe’s biggest employer, however staff sickness currently costs the hard-pressed organisation roughly £2.4bn a year – around £1 in every £40 of the total budget.

Eager to get the house in order and set an example to the millions of patients it treats every year, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens has created a new £600m national incentive fund to help frontline staff stay healthy.

From April, hospitals and other providers of NHS care will for the first time be able to earn their share of the national incentive fund by promoting healthy workplace options.

Stevens wants physical activity to be a cornerstone of this initiative and has put forward fitness classes, running clubs and team sports as suggestions for boosting workplace wellness.

He has also called for more healthy eating options to be made available to staff, as well as a ban on junk food adverts, prominent displays and price promotions on NHS premises.

“As the largest employer in Europe, the NHS needs to practice what it preaches by offering better support for the health and wellbeing of our own 1.3 million staff,” said Stevens.

“A good place to start is by tackling the sources of staff sickness absence including mental health and musculoskeletal injuries, while doing our bit to end the nation’s obesity epidemic by ditching junk food and sugary drinks in place of tasty, healthy and affordable alternatives.”

Workplace wellness is taking on growing importance for employers of all sizes as more companies start to appreciate the benefits of investing in a healthy workforce. Launching her organisation’s Blueprint for an Active Britain ukactive chair Tanni Grey-Thompson recently said that physical activity referrals and sessions should be available in Britain’s GP surgeries, workplaces, job centres and care homes to turn the tide on the UK’s physical inactivity pandemic. Lack of exercise is estimated to cause 37,000 deaths annually and cost the economy up to £20bn per year.

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Dance, yoga and Pilates classes will be made available to NHS staff as part of a new £600m fund designed to ensure Europe’s largest single workforce is fit for purpose.
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