Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Chocolate in hospitals

One of the comments in yesterday's story about the rise in obesity amongst the young was about how bad hospitals are in providing poor food and outlets and vending machines that purvey high sugar and fatty foods. 

When I was last in St Thomas' for one of my regular trips to the Eye clinic I walked past the fast food outlets and shops all selling sweets and cakes galore. A bad example to staff, visitors and patients. 

But I also remember when I was on the health authority for St Thomas' having a go at the poor non smoking arrangements in the hospital. I was pulled up by a consultant who asked would I deny someone who was dying their last few fags; especially if they were dying of lung cancer so it wouldn't actually make a difference.  A fair point I thought. And the same goes for chocolate. After all when hospital food is so poor you can hardly complain when the hospital volunteers wheel the trolley round and the sell Kit Kats and Mars Bars. 

But there is a broader point. If we are to take the prevention agenda seriously we have to intervene at all levels. Whether that is the PM's announcement today on cash to encourage cycling or hospitals ensuring their retail outlets push healthy foods and not tempt us with sugar  and fatty crap. 

I've had some interesting emails of late (and I see the readership of my Blog has shot) but the most intriguing asked about the focus on the Disasters Emergency Committee in last week's attacks on the third sector. Why is it that it was the aid charities that were singled out by the Daily Telegraph? I am not the only person to have wondered if this is more a debate about the levels of foreign aid rather than executive pay. For all the sanctimony about pay in some quarters, it seems it's really just the anti-aid lobby at it once more. 

In yesterday's Times Tim Montgomerie explained very effectively why foreign aid is needed, and best put through charities:

"Last week, encouraged by a UKIP MEP’s attack on our assistance to “bongo bongo land” — and with pages to fill in the quietest silly season for years — certain newspapers launched a sustained attack on Britain’s relationship with the developing world...

And asked to identify how much of total government expenditure is spent on aid in an opinion poll carried out for Downing Street, people said that they thought it was about 17 per cent. Asked what the percentage should be, they answered 7 per cent. And the actual percentage? Just 1.2 per cent...

Some states still use aid as a political tool but most of the big aid spenders give for entirely humanitarian reasons and if they are worried about corruption in certain states, they bypass government and attempt to channel their help through civil society and charitable organisations — which is nearly always the best route...

A British taxpayer earning £25,000 pays the equivalent of 20p on aid per day. Don’t go to bed tonight full of rage at that 20p going to “bongo bongo land” and the thought that, occasionally, some of it is wasted. Go to bed knowing that UK taxpayers’ aid provides a continuity of assistance that fluctuating private giving does not."

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